Wear Flowers in Your Mane

by jkbrony

First published

On a day she spends with her surrogate little sister, Scootaloo, Rainbow Dash receives news that will change her life forever. Everypony must deal with loss at some point or another....

Rainbow Dash has it all. She's popular, respected by those around her, and now that she's been accepted into the Wonderbolts Reserves, her dream of becoming a Wonderbolt is that much closer to being realized.

However, on a day she spends with her surrogate little sister, Scootaloo, Rainbow Dash receives news that will change her life forever. Everypony must deal with loss at some point or another...

Set after much of season 4, but before Equestria Games and Twilight's Kingdom.

Art by GromekTwist

Chapter 1 -- Living the Dream

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"Alright, Scoot, go long!"

Scootaloo turned on the spot and dashed several meters away from the cyan, rainbow-maned pegasus who was seconds away from kicking a ball in her direction.

A golden sun hung high in the near-cloudless sky of a quiet spring afternoon. The weather was absolutely perfect, courtesy of the aforementioned rainbow-maned pegasus who had made sure that her day of bonding with her surrogate younger sister would not be deterred by inclement weather. The grassy field they played in was a common spot for picnics, particularly in spring when the flowers bloomed all around and trees offered just the right amount of shade.

Once Scootaloo seemed far enough, Rainbow Dash punted the ball and it soared high through the air, its trajectory forming a perfect arch.

"I got it!" Scootaloo called out, aligning herself to the ball's path.

However, she quickly realized that she had gone out too far, and the ball was going to hit the ground if she didn't move back about six feet in under three seconds. She immediately dashed in the opposite direction, her tiny wings fluttering rapidly in the hopes that they would grant her some additional speed.

The ball fell rapidly to the earth. Only a mere foot away from its zone of impact, Scootaloo leapt off her hooves and soared towards it with her forelegs outstretched and her wings still flapping as fast as they were able. In its very last second in midair, the ball landed squarely in between her forehooves and she hit the ground, her wings no longer offering her propulsion.

"G-Got it!" Scootaloo cried in what little breath she had remaining.

"Awesome catch, Scoot!" Rainbow exclaimed, zipping over to her.

Picking herself back up onto her hooves, Scootaloo smiled with satisfaction, now knowing that her effort had not been wasted.

"Alright, I'll be going out far, so make me actually have to put some effort into catching it," said Rainbow after allowing Scootaloo several seconds to catch her breath.

"You got it, Rainbow Dash!"

Rainbow smirked and zipped back to the other end of the field. Scootaloo breathed deeply. Placing the ball upon the grass, she took several steps back and prepared herself to perform a charging punt. On the far end of the field, Rainbow planted all four hooves on the ground, ready to charge after the ball once it was in the air.

Once ready, Scootaloo charged toward the ball, her mind focused upon nothing but making it fly as high and as far as she possibly could. However, in a moment of somewhat comedic misfortune, she lost her footing and punted the ball vertically into the air while simultaneously falling square upon her back. The ball soared straight up several feet and then quickly reversed its direction, plummeting straight downwards directly where Scootaloo now lay.

She instinctively shielded her face with her forelegs, awaiting the impact. Several seconds passed, yet she did not feel the ball strike her body. She cautiously removed her forelegs to see Rainbow Dash hovering just above her, the ball spinning upon the tip of her hoof.

"Uhh, not exactly what I was expecting," she chuckled. "But at least you actually made me put some effort into catching it."

Scootaloo chuckled with embarrassment, pulling herself into a more relaxed position as she lay in the grass.

"I guess the heat must've got to me," she said dismissively, wiping the sweat from her forehead. "It sure is a hot day for spring."

"No kidding," Rainbow said, taking a seat next to her biggest admirer. "Maybe I busted too many clouds this morning. I should have left us some shade."

"Don't worry about it," Scootaloo said forgivingly. "There isn't much you can do about the heat, right?"

"Anyway, I think we could both use a break," said Rainbow. "Hows about we head on over to my place for some cold lemonade? Besides, the mailpony will be coming soon, and I want to be there when he does. I'm expecting a letter that should be arriving today."

"A letter?" Scootaloo asked, finally picking herself back up. "From whom?"

"Oh, no one in particular. Just the WONDERBOLTS!"

"Really?!" Scootaloo exclaimed, doing a tiny hop as though suddenly filled with boundless excitement.

"Yep!" Rainbow replied proudly. "As you know, I was accepted into the Wonderbolts Reserves. They sent me a letter last week saying that they were going to want to see me to run some basic exercises. Just some easy, boring stuff, really. Nothing too exciting...except for ONE thing. I get to wear a Wonderbolt uniform while I do them!"

Rainbow yelped enthusiastically and looped around in midair just above Scootaloo's head.

"For the first time EVER, I'm actually going to be wearing a Wonderbolt uniform! That practically makes me an official Wonderbolt! Ever since I was a filly I've been awaiting the day when I would get to wear one of those uniforms, and it's finally coming! I'm finally going to be living the dream!!"

"That's totally awesome, Rainbow Dash!" Scootaloo boasted. "And I'm honored that I was able to help you reach that goal."

Rainbow Dash sat back down and rubbed the top of Scootaloo's head with her hoof.

"Couldn't have done it without you, Scoot!"

True enough, Scootaloo had been among the several ponies who had helped Rainbow Dash "study" for her Wonderbolts Reserves exam.

"So when do you go in?" she asked.

"Well, that's what this next letter is going to tell me," answered Rainbow. "It might be a week, it might be a few days from now, or it might be tomorrow. But either way, the day I wear a Wonderbolt uniform is finally in sight! I am SO pumped for this!"

"Well, what are we waiting for, then?!" asked Scootaloo with excitement. "Besides, lemonade does sound really good right about now."

Rainbow grinned and jumped back onto her hooves. "Hop on!"

Scootaloo grabbed the ball and climbed up on Rainbow's back. In a flash of multi-colored light, Rainbow Dash took off like a jet, setting a course for her home.


Within ten minutes, the two pegasi were sitting opposite each other at Rainbow's kitchen table in her cloud-based home, sipping cold lemonade through a straw. Rainbow turned her head towards the window every few seconds, looking in the direction of the mailbox which was now sitting along the front walkway of her home rather than its usual spot in the grass down below. Her eyes carefully scanned the area around it for the slightest trace of movement, as though she were fearful that the mailpony would not deliver her letter if she did not see him when he arrived.

"How long have you wanted to be a Wonderbolt, Rainbow Dash?" Scootaloo asked after taking a sip of her lemonade.

"Since the day I first heard about them," Rainbow answered after taking another look out the window. "I must've been six or seven. At the time, I didn't know anything about them other than that they were said to be the best and fastest flyers in Equestria, and I knew from that moment that it was a career that was right up my alley."

"Well, you still didn't really seem to know much about them until just before you took the test," Scootaloo pointed out. "I kinda thought you would have already known everything there was to know about their history."

Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes apathetically.

"History, schmistory. Those Wonderbolt history books are too thick and too full of useless information. Their basic origin was all I really needed to know to get into the Reserves. Who cares about what kind of flight patterns they performed for General Whatshisface some hundred years ago, or which badges he awarded them? Or any other little tidbits of information that don't have any relevance to the Wonderbolts today?"

"You're right," Scootaloo said with a nod. "Research is boring."

Rainbow chuckled. "You will go far, Scoot."

Scootaloo grinned with content and took another sip of lemonade.

"You know, the first time I tried to get into the Wonderbolts was the day I first performed a Sonic Rainboom," Rainbow said after taking another quick glace out the window. "I was told that I was too young to join at the time, but if I could perform the Rainboom again, they would consider me when I was old enough. They wanted to make sure that my doing it the first time wasn't just a fluke. I thought it would be easy enough, particularly since I had just pulled it off without even trying. But I couldn't have been more wrong. I tried for weeks, flying as hard and as fast as I could, but it never happened. I wasn't able to perform the Rainboom again."

Rainbow ended her last sentence with a sigh.

"The only other time I had ever been as disappointed as I was then was when Cloudsdale was passed up for the Equestria Games. It felt like my one and only chance to join the Wonderbolts had just slipped through my hooves. I didn't understand how I had managed to do it the first time without even trying, but was unable to do it again when I was trying my hardest. And it certainly didn't help that...," Rainbow went silent, narrowing her eyes while looking down at her glass.

"That what?"

"I don't really want to talk about that part," Rainbow sighed. "Let's just say that there was somepony who didn't really believe that I would ever become a Wonderbolt. We eventually parted ways and I told him that the next time he would see me, I would be wearing a Wonderbolt uniform."

"Oh..." said Scootaloo, feeling a bit uncomfortable at that information.

"Anyway, I was never able to do the Sonic Rainboom again until the Best Young Flyer Competion," Rainbow continued. "So I ended up missing my chance of getting in at an early age. But you know what? That doesn't even matter to me anymore. It may have taken me some time, but I've just about made it. And soon enough, I'll finally be able to prove him wrong."

Scootaloo swirled the ice around in her glass, a frown suddenly forming on her face.

"Must be nice to have a career in mind from such a young age. I still don't have any idea of what I'm going to do with my own life, especially if...well, you know..."

"I'm sure you'll figure it out soon enough," Rainbow said comfortingly. "Twilight tells me that you've become pretty good at fixing things up."

Scootaloo shrugged.

"Only if I have a manual or something helping me out. It's not that impressive. At our last Twilight Time, Apple Bloom was able to create a perfect plant potion without instructions, and Sweetie Belle can now levitate multiple objects at once. I'm not really improving as quickly as they are."

"I'm sure you're better than you think you are," said Rainbow. "It's not like mechanical work is that easy."

"Well, I don't really think it's going to get me my cutie mark anymore," Scootaloo replied, continuing to swirl the ice around in her glass. "And I don't really have anything else I can fall back on like Sweetie Belle does."

"What do you mean?" asked Rainbow with a cock of her head.

"I think Sweetie Belle could be a great writer someday," explained Scootaloo. "She wrote and directed an entire play, and she's the one who came up with most of the lyrics for our song way back when we were working on our talent show performance. I was the one who was supposed to be writing the lyrics, but I couldn't really come up with anything. If she ever decided to put a lot of effort into it, it could easily get her a cutie mark."

"So Sweetie Belle might get her cutie mark a little earlier than you. No biggie. I know you three have been trying to get them at the same time for the same thing, but that just isn't how it usually works," said Rainbow Dash.

"The point is that she has something else to fall back on, even if she doesn't get her cutie mark in something magic-related," Scootaloo replied. "And that's another thing. Sweetie Belle and I really used to have something in common. She couldn't do magic, and I couldn't fly. But that's over now. She can do magic, and she's getting really good at it. I hate to admit it, but....I envy her."

Rainbow frowned. Her excitement over the incoming letter suddenly diminished.

"Come on, Scoot. You're the coolest filly I know. Sooner or later, you're going to find something that you totally rock at."

Scootaloo smiled, responding to the compliment. "I hope so."

From the corner of her eye, Rainbow Dash noticed movement just outside the window. She turned her head to see that a pegasus had just landed upon the base of her home. Excitement rushed through her veins once again, increasing her heart rate exponentially.

"Ohmigosh, ohmigosh, ohmigosh, he's here!" she cried enthusiastically, jumping up from her seat. Scootaloo quickly gulped down the remainder of her lemonade and followed after Rainbow as she rushed out of the kitchen.

Realizing that she was most likely prepared to tackle the mailpony in order to find her letter, Rainbow paused at the front door to calm herself down. She took several deep breaths, letting her anticipation settle. Scootaloo appeared by her side, offering her a comforting smile.

There was a sudden knock on the door, at which Rainbow squinted her eyes with confusion. The only time mailponies ever knocked on the door was when they were delivering a package, and she hadn't been expecting one.

Unless...he was delivering her Wonderbolt uniform...

Could it be? The first letter had not mentioned that she would be getting a uniform delivered. She had assumed that she would be given the uniform once she had showed up for the exercises, and she did not even expect that she would be able to keep it. But she was unsure of what else it could possibly be. Perhaps this was it. Perhaps this was finally the day...

Rainbow Dash swung the door open with as much excitement and vigor as she had when she rushed over to it, her efforts to calm herself down ultimately amounting to naught. However, that excitement subsided almost immediately when she was starting face-to-face with the stallion who stood on her doorstep.

It was instantly obvious that he was no mailpony. He was not wearing any appropriate mailpony apparel, nor was he carrying a bag of letters or any packages. Instead, he wore a charcoal-colored dress suit with a matching tie. His mane was delicately slicked back and so refined with wax that it gleamed brightly in the sun. He was not particularly old, though the weariness of an aged life was present in his face. He wore a solemn expression, indicating to Rainbow that he was not about to deliver anything that even resembled good news. She avoided looking at his cutie mark.

"I...," Rainbow started, unsure of what she wanted to say.

"Rainbow Dash?" he asked in a low, yet stern voice.

"Y-yes?" Rainbow responded, suddenly wishing that she was not.

The stallion looked down at Scootaloo, prompting her to take an uncomfortable step back. His eyes then returned to meet Rainbow's, which glistened with troubling anticipation.

"My name is Mr. Grimmtock, and it is my deepest regret to inform you that your father, Rainbow Blaze, has passed away," he said with a slight bow of his head.

Scootaloo gasped. The words passed through Rainbow Dash as though she were an Everfree Forest cloud. Numbness began to overtake her body as they slowly sank deeply into her mind.

"What...?" she replied in a half-whisper.

"I'm sorry. I hate to be the one to tell you this. As you are his only next-of-kin, I'm also to tell you that should you wish to arrange a funeral, we'll need to see you at Fallen Skies Funeral Home in Cloudsdale. Of course, you can—"

"Wait...stop! Just stop!" Rainbow cried with frustration. "How...when did this happen?!"

"Forgive me, I got a bit ahead of myself," said Grimmtock, bowing his head again. "He passed last night. Unfortunately, the illness that he contracted in the weeks before his death has claimed his life."

Rainbow went silent as his words continued to settle into her mind.

"What...what illness?" she asked, her voice barely trailing above a whisper once again.

Grimmtock blinked with surprise.

"I assumed you knew about it. He apparently came down with a terrible cough about two weeks ago and spent a few days in the hospital. The doctors prescribed him with some pills that helped with his cough and he was eventually discharged. However, a few days ago, he returned to the hospital after he found his cough getting worse. He was placed into urgent care and at that point, it was discovered that he had an infection around his heart and lungs. The doctors performed surgery but they found that the infection had spread too far, and...he passed shortly after that."

Rainbow stared at him in dead silence, completely unaware that any of this had occurred. Scootaloo looked up at her sorrowfully. Grimmtock waited several seconds before speaking again.

"As I said, we'll need to see you in Cloudsdale to plan the funeral arrangements. You can come on your own time, of course, but we would prefer it to be within the next few days. Naturally, the sooner the arrangements are made, the sooner the funeral will take place. I assume that you know the place in question?"

Rainbow nodded slowly, her eyes locked into a stare that was so devoid of emotion that she appeared to be staring directly into an empty, desolate abyss without a single trace of light or hope anywhere to be found.

"Well, then, that's all I have," he continued. "Again, I am terribly sorry for your loss, and for being the one who had to pass this information to you. We expect to see you in Cloudsdale soon."

Grimmtock bowed a third time and turned away, taking several steps before finally opening his wings and zipping into the air. Rainbow Dash slowly shut the door, reeling from everything she had just heard.

"I...I don't even know what to say...," Scootaloo squeaked, tears falling swiftly from her eyes. She stood up on her hind legs and threw her tiny forehooves around Rainbow's neck. "I'm so, so sorry, Rainbow Dash!"

Rainbow said nothing, her hooves fixed to the spot as though they were tied down. She had forgotten all about the Wonderbolts, all about the letter, all about the uniform. She couldn't remember waking up that morning, busting the clouds, or playing with the young pegasus filly who now clung to her neck. Everything that had happened before she opened the door had erased itself from her memory.

Her father was dead. The thought circulated throughout her mind over and over again. It was not as though she was having difficulty accepting it, rather than she was unsure of how she felt about it. He had been her last living parent, as she had lost her mother shortly after she was born. It was he from whom she had inherited her multi-colored mane and tail, and it was also he from whom she had received her name. Their relationship had been rocky on occasion, but that was not to imply she did not care about him—that she would not have come rushing back to Cloudsdale had she known about his illness. An entire spectrum of feelings and emotions flooded throughout her body, but a strong sense of failure prevailed above all of them.

Because now her father would never see her wear a Wonderbolt uniform.

She had forever lost her chance to prove him wrong.

Scootaloo continued to weep, not particularly for the death of a pony she never knew, but purely out of sorrow for Rainbow Dash, especially since she had opened the door expecting something entirely different. Not a single tear permeated from Rainbow's eyes. Her body remained numb, her emotions remained scrambled. She felt as though she had fallen backwards into a very bad dream. A dream that had suddenly become her life. A dream she would never be able to wake up from. In the blink of an eye, everything had changed forever. And she was not even the slightest bit ready for it.

"Scootaloo," Rainbow said in a whisper. "Please don't tell anypony about this."

Scootaloo released her grasp on Rainbow's neck and wiped her eyes.

"W-why not?"

"Just...just don't," Rainbow sighed, her voice remaining low. "For now, this stays between me and you. Please, promise me that you won't tell anypony about it."

"Okay, I won't tell anypony," Scootaloo sighed. She looked up into Rainbow's sullen eyes. "Are you...going to be okay?"

Rainbow stared at her silently for several seconds. "I...I don't know..."

Scootaloo softly nuzzled her side. "I'll stay with you for as long as you need."

A sudden burst of warmth spread throughout Rainbow's body, diminishing the numbness.

"Thanks, Scoot," she said with her lip curling upwards to form a half-hearted smile.

"Do you want to talk?"

Rainbow shook her head. "I...really just want to lay down."

Rainbow opened her wings and rose to the top level of her home. She entered her bedroom and plopped down on the bed without a second thought. She did not want to think. She did not want to reflect. All she wanted to do was close her eyes and pretend for the briefest of moments that this was not her new reality. That her father was still alive and well. That her chance to prove him wrong had not yet expired.

She suddenly felt her foreleg lift up as a tiny filly curled up underneath it, her head nestling against Rainbow's side. An even stronger burst of warmth spread from her heart, and she tightly wrapped her foreleg around Scootaloo. Rainbow allowed her mind to go blank, and within an hour, she drifted asleep alongside her. Reality would come crashing down upon her once again when she regained consciousness, but for now, she had managed to find an escape, if only for a little while.

Meanwhile, just outside, the mailpony finally arrived to drop off a single letter in the mailbox.

Chapter 2 -- Home

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Rainbow Dash sat slouched in an office chair, boredom wearing heavily upon her mind. Sitting at the desk across from her, the funeral director wrote upon a sheet, and his expression indicated that he was growing just as bored and impatient as she was. A quick look at the clock that hung just above the desk informed her that it was 1:26 PM. It had been about 24 hours since she first heard the news that shattered her dream forever—the news that her father was no longer around to see her proudly wear a Wonderbolt uniform when that day eventually came. Her life had been at a standstill for her since that moment. The letter that she had been anticipating with so much excitement the day before still lay untouched in her mailbox, as the loss of her dream had left her without any desire to open it. She still found herself to be unable to cry, and unwilling to reflect upon what his death would mean for her. The thought of arranging his funeral had been weighing heavily on her mind, so she had decided to get it out of the way. Unfortunately, the process was not as quick or easy as she had anticipated it to be.

"And would you like the stone to be separate, or shared with your mother's?" asked the director after he stopped writing.

Rainbow Dash sighed with annoyance. This was the fiftieth question she had been asked—or at least that's how she perceived it in her increasingly boredom-riddled mind.

"I don't care," she answered with a huff.

The funeral director cocked an eyebrow at her apathy. It could not have been any more apparent that she would have rather been anywhere else in the world at the moment. He shook his head and continued writing upon the sheet.

"Well, all I need to know now is the estimated number of attendees," he said.

Rainbow fidgeted in her chair and turned her head to the side.

"I...really don't know right now."

The director struggled to maintain his composure, but his irritation was swiftly rising to its breaking point. No client had ever annoyed him in such a way.

"All right, how about a guesstimate, then? Like maybe five? Ten?"


"Sure what?"

"Five or ten, I guess."

He sighed with annoyance the same way Rainbow had.

"Well, that'll do it," he said with relief, after writing upon the sheet for a final time. "The funeral is set for one week from today. I guess we'll see you then unless you want to change anything, or if you know more about how many are attending. Of course, as is traditional custom for a pegasi funeral, you and all other attendees will be expected to wear flowers in your mane."

"Right, whatever" Rainbow said lethargically, standing up and hastily making her way out of the small office as though fearful that he had one more question he had forgotten to ask.

Scootaloo was seated in the lobby with an extreme sports magazine, reading bitterly through an article about a trio of fillies from Baltimare who were being cited as the first pony zip-liners, one of which had even received a cutie mark for it. Just as she was struck with an urge to throw the magazine against a wall, she looked up to see Rainbow Dash walking towards the exit.

"Let's go," Rainbow said as she passed her. Scootaloo returned the magazine to its rack and followed after her as she left Fallen Skies Funeral Home.


The high-altitude air struck them both hard as they emerged. It had been quite some time since Rainbow Dash had visited Cloudsdale. It still looked the same as it always did; the Weather Factory churned out fresh-made clouds every few seconds, the rainbow falls added a colorful contrast to the monotonous white and blue that made up nearly everything from the roads to the houses, and a hoard of shouts and cheers could be heard from whatever event was being held at the Cloudiseum. As they walked along the road, Scootaloo looked around the city in astonishment, particularly thankful that her inability to fly had not affected her ability to walk upon clouds.

"So...when is it?" she asked as she watched a group of pegasi zip by overhead.

"A week from today," answered Rainbow.

"Umm, by the way, how do funerals up here work? Because it's not like you can bury—." She stopped instantly and bit her tongue. "I'm sorry. You don't have to answer that."

Rainbow shook her head. "It's fine, Scoot. In Cloudsdale, the only burial option is a burial at sky. A casket is made out of a very light cloud and the body is placed inside. During the funeral, it's released into the sky. It floats up and never comes back down. A gravestone is laid in the cemetery after that."

"I see...," Scootaloo said uncomfortably with a glance towards the sky, wondering how many bodies were lying up there.

"You know, you didn't need to come here with me, Scoot," said Rainbow Dash. "This really wasn't any big deal."

"It's okay. I wanted to come," she replied. "Besides, I wasn't about to miss a chance to visit Cloudsdale. I've never been here before. It's incredible!"

"Yep, that's what I always thought," said Rainbow with a chuckle. "When I was a filly, I didn't think there could possibly be a better place in the world to live."

"Then why did you want to move to Ponyville?"

Rainbow paused for a moment as though searching through her mind for an answer.

"Well, when you live here, you're generally expected to work in the Weather Factory when you get older, unless you actively pursue some other line of work. Even in school, they teach you things like how snowflakes and rainbows are made. The only career plan I had in mind was to become a Wonderbolt, but since I wasn't about to get in anytime soon, I kept getting pressured to pursue another one. So that's when I decided that I was probably better off living somewhere else. I chose to live in Ponyville mostly because that was where Fluttershy was living."

"So where are we going now?" asked Scootaloo. "Are we heading back to Ponyville?"

Rainbow shook her head. "Not yet. There's something I need to do first."

Scootaloo nodded in understanding, lacking any interest to ask about it.

They walked in silence for several minutes. Though flying was undoubtedly Rainbow Dash's preferred method of movement, her wings remained closed while hooves were firmly attached to the road, showing not even the slightest desire to fly to their destination. Scootaloo assumed that wherever they were headed, it was a place that she really wanted to take her time getting to.

"You seem to be doing a lot better," she said, breaking the silence between them.

Rainbow looked down. "I'm just trying to keep my mind off of it."

"Oh. Sorry," said Scootaloo, biting her tongue again.

"Don't worry about it," replied Rainbow with a shake of her head. "Besides, it's going to be impossible not to think about it soon."

Rainbow's legs kept moving, even though part of her did not want them to. There was scarcely an inch of Cloudsdale that was not nostalgic to her in some way, and that nostalgia would only become painful to reflect upon when she reached her destination.

"So...you and Fluttershy have really been friends a long time, huh?" Scootaloo attempted another conversation. "Back when she was telling us her cutie mark story, I remember her mentioning how you were the only one who ever stood up for her when she was being picked on."

"Since this is the home of the Wonderbolts, Cloudsdale has an image to maintain as being the place where the best flyers in Equestria are born. So if you're seen as a weak flyer...let's just say there's not a whole lot of love for you here."

"Oh...," Scootaloo replied, looking down at her wings mournfully.

"Fluttershy had it pretty rough," Rainbow Dash continued. "Whenever we did exercises in Flight Camp, she was barely able to keep up with the rest of us. The other fillies in camp teased her for it, usually until she ran off crying. Sometimes the instructor made the exercises harder for her, which led to her getting teased even more."

"Gosh, that's terrible...," said Scootaloo, suddenly struck with an urge to hug Fluttershy the next time she saw her.

They turned into a residential area. Rows upon rows of cloud homes were aligned on both their left and right sides. Most of the houses were only one story, and many looked so alike that Scootaloo wondered how anypony could tell them apart.

"Since I was one of the more popular fillies at camp, I thought that she would be left alone if I stood up for her," said Rainbow. "It didn't really help that much, and it got even worse after the race. Fluttershy started getting teased for her cutie mark since she had discovered her destiny on the ground, which is a rare thing for a pegasus from Cloudsdale. They even said things like 'this is even more proof that you should have been born an earth pony.'"

"Are you serious?!" Scootaloo exclaimed, her jaw dropped in shock. The notion of actually being teased for having a cutie mark seemed inconceivable after she had endured years of being teased for not having a cutie mark.

Rainbow Dash nodded. "The instructor refused to do anything about it, so I decided to take matters into my own hooves."

"What did you do?"

"Well, every one of us had a thermos full of water to keep ourselves hydrated in the hot sun. On a day we had to do laps, I finished first, long before anypony else did. I took the thermoses of Fluttershy's most persistent tormentors and poured all the water out of them, then I quickly flew over to the Weather Factory and filled them up with rainbow. You would think that rainbows would taste sweet, but they're actually hotter and spicier than anything you can imagine—just ask Pinkie Pie. Anyway, I returned to camp and set their thermoses back where I found them. Naturally, they were dying for a drink of water when they finished their laps, but that sure wasn't what they got."

Scootaloo chuckled. "That must've been amusing."

"Yeah," Rainbow said with a small chuckle. "It was pretty funny. Their eyes were watering, they were zipping all over the place, and they were stuffing chunks of cloud in their mouths just to cool their throats off. The entire camp got a good laugh out of it."

"Did they stop teasing Fluttershy after that?" Scootaloo asked as the thought of doing the same thing to Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon passed through her mind.

"For a while, at least," Rainbow answered. "Unfortunately, I didn't get away with it. The instructor automatically suspected me, and the ponies who had seen me at the factory wasted no time ratting me out when he stopped by to ask about it. So, I ended up getting suspended from camp for a month."

"Well, that's harsh," Scootaloo said with distaste.

Rainbow sighed and lowered her voice. "Yeah. Dad sure gave me a load over that..."

Scootaloo looked down with discomfort. The clouds she walked upon may as well have been thin ice. It did not seem as though there was a single conversation she could make that would not eventually come around to her father. Before she could change the subject again, Rainbow Dash continued on.

"Anyway, being suspended didn't bother me too much," she said. "I used the time I had off to continue trying the Sonic Rainboom. Every day when camp was dismissed, Fluttershy flew down to the ground to spend time with her animal friends. That's what got her through camp after I was no longer able to defend her. It didn't surprise me at all when she told me that she was planning on living on the ground when she was older. I had always thought that a pegasus living on the ground didn't make much sense, but I could understand why she wanted to leave. Never would have thought I'd end up leaving Cloudsdale, though."

"Well, I'm glad you did," said Scootaloo with a smile.

"Me too."

They walked in silence for a few more minutes until Rainbow finally stopped just in front of a house. It was two stories high, but otherwise did not stand out much from any other house nearby. Scootaloo noted that Rainbow's own cloud-based home looked much nicer.

"Whose house is this?" she asked.

"It's mine," Rainbow Dash answered. "This is the house I grew up in."

"You lived here with your dad?"

"Yeah," Rainbow nodded. "I just wanted to see it one last time."

"Well, didn't he leave a will or something?" asked Scootaloo. "Maybe this house belongs to you now."

"If it does, I'm going to give it away," said Rainbow. "I've long stopped calling this place my home."

She slowly walked up to the front door, taking a deep breath before opening it. An icy wave of memories splashed over her as she stepped inside. The house had not changed much since she saw it last. The foyer was bare and empty, save for a few paintings hung on the wall. The room to her left was the dining and kitchen area, where she and her father had eaten meals together for years. The room to her right was the study, where shelves of books that she had never cared to read collected dust. And just in front of her were the stairs that led up to the bedrooms.

Rainbow Dash found herself standing in the middle of the foyer, soaking in her memories of the home that had been one of the few constants in her life. They swirled through her mind in such a way that it was almost as though they were battling each other for dominance. She remembered taking flight for the first time in the backyard, lying awake in bed while she imagined what life as a Wonderbolt would be like, and the fateful day when she had decided that she was going to leave.

A warm hoof touched her neck, almost instantly pulling her away from the cold memories.

"Are you okay?" Scootaloo asked with concern.

"Sure," Rainbow answered after exhaling a deep breath. "It's just that it's been a long time since I was here."

She slowly ascended the stairs with Scootaloo following closely behind her.

"So...I've kinda been curious about something," said Scootaloo. "Your house has stairs, Fluttershy's house has stairs, and this house has stairs. Why is that? I mean, you don't really need to use them, right?"

No answer came. Rainbow had gone silent again as another memory slipped through her mind—the memory of the first time she ascended to the second level of the house with only her wings. It had happened the day after she first learned to fly, and she remembered how thrilled she had been at the very notion. Stairs had suddenly seemed so outdated and old-fashioned. Even walking itself had begun to feel like an inferior method of movement.

"Rainbow Dash?" Scootaloo once again pulled her back to the present.

"Uhh, well, stairs are mostly for when pegasi injure their wings and can't fly for a while," Rainbow finally answered.

On the second level of the house was a hallway with two rooms on opposite ends. Along the walls of the hallway, between the two rooms, hung framed photographs depicting memorable moments of the past that had been deemed worthy of framing and hanging upon a wall. Rainbow Dash avoided looking at them as she made her way towards the room on the left end of the hallway. She paused just outside the door, allowing her thoughts to settle. She knew that the moment she entered the room, everything would come crashing down upon her as though she were hovering just under an enormous, gray cloud while freezing rain fell relentlessly upon her head. She looked over at Scootaloo, who was taking interest in the pictures on the walls, scanning them over thoroughly as though they were the answers to whatever questions of Rainbow's past she thought were too personal or too painful to ask about.

After a few minutes, once she felt that she was ready to face what lie in the room before her, Rainbow Dash finally opened the door. Like the rest of the house, the room had not changed much since she last saw it. It was mostly tidy, though the bed was unmade. More framed photographs sat upon the leg-high dresser to her right. Two shelves of random trinkets were hung on two opposite walls. A closet was situated at the upper left corner of the room. Just to the right of the bed was a record player with a large case full of albums sitting beside it. The windows were shielded by the curtains, allowing very little light to penetrate through the room, adding a somber mood that matched the way Rainbow felt.

Sighing, she walked inside. The icy wave that had washed over her earlier now impaled her like a cold spear through the heart. After years upon years of associating this room with her father's presence, it was a harsh feeling to know that he would never occupy it again. It now felt like a hollow shell of everything he had left behind—everything that might have now belonged to her, whether she wanted it or not.

"Was this....his room?" asked Scootaloo, following her inside.

Rainbow nodded without looking at her.

Scootaloo turned her attention towards the pictures on the dresser, and the centermost picture caught her eye almost instantly. It depicted a pegasus mare lying in a hospital bed holding a bundled foal whom she instantly recognized as Rainbow Dash. Her coat was of beige, but it was her mane that truly stood out. It was one of the most gorgeous manes Scootaloo had ever seen. It appeared to be about as long as Fluttershy's, though it was wavy instead of straight. Its color was a rosy red with three streaks of azure, violet, and gold running down prominently from the top. The mare looked down at Rainbow Dash with a smile of so much love and warmth that Scootaloo could almost feel it emanating from beyond the frame. She wondered why the mare had not been in any of the pictures in the hallway.

"Yeah, that's my mom," Rainbow Dash said from behind her. "She died before I was a year old."

"She's beautiful," Scootaloo responded, in spite of herself. "What was her name?"

"Sunstreak Shine," Rainbow answered after a brief pause. "When she died, dad stowed all her pictures away in his closet—all but this one. He never could bring himself to stow this one away."

"How did she...?"

"It was a flight accident," Rainbow answered with discomfort. "Don't ask for details—I don't know them. Dad never really told me much more than that. I used to just sit in here, looking at this picture for hours wondering who she was and what she was like. Dad told me a lot about her, but I never really felt like that was ever enough. I didn't want to hear about her, I wanted to actually know her. But that would never happen."

Scootaloo looked down sorrowfully, as though she was familiar with the feeling.

"We visited her gravestone every year on her birthday," Rainbow Dash continued. "Dad used to have these long conversations with her, but I only ever said a few words. To me, all we were doing was having a talk with a stone in the ground. She wasn't buried there, and even if she was, she wasn't listening. She would never respond. And yet, he still kept on jabbering away as if she was actually standing right there in front of him. It was so stupid that I actually felt embarrassed for him."

"No!" Scootaloo cried, suddenly full of anger. "No, it wasn't stupid! You might not have known her well enough to miss her, but he did! Besides, how could you know she wasn't listening? She could have been!"

Rainbow Dash blinked with surprise at her hostility.

"What does it matter?" she grumbled irritably. "Besides, you think I'm going to talk to his gravestone? I'm not! Why would he even want me to? He didn't even bother telling me that he was sick! He stopped caring about me a long time ago."

Anger gradually washed away from Scootaloo's face. Rainbow turned her head back towards the dresser and glared at one of the pictures that her father was in.

"At times we were just strangers living in the same house. I don't think he ever really knew that much about me apart from my dream of becoming a Wonderbolt, which he ripped to pieces at every opportunity he could."

"Does that mean...?"

"Yeah. He was the one, Scoot," Rainbow Dash replied. "He was the one who didn't believe that I would ever become a Wonderbolt. He was the one I wanted to prove wrong."

Scootaloo lowered her eyes as though accepting defeat.

"I figured as much," she whispered.

Rainbow continued glaring at the picture. At that moment, there was only one memory that had wedged itself into her thoughts—only one memory that she could reflect on.

"We were in a heated argument five years ago on the day before my birthday. He said that I was too old to be pursuing this 'fantasy' of becoming a Wonderbolt, and that it was time I sought after a career. This had been going on for years, and I was so sick of listening to it. So that was when I told him that I was going to leave, and the next time he would see me, I would be wearing a Wonderbolt uniform. All he did was shake his head and brush me off, like he didn't think I was serious. And to be honest, I didn't think I was that serious either when I said it. It took me a few hours of thinking it over, but I decided that I was going to go through with it. I spent the night packing up, and the very next day, I moved to Ponyville. And that was it—I never saw him again after that. I never came back for his birthdays, for Hearth's Warming, or for any holiday at all. I was determined to make sure that he would not see me again until I was a Wonderbolt. I thought that he would always be here, just waiting for me to return when I was ready."

Rainbow glanced towards her father's unmade bed, staring silently at it for several seconds before going on.

"He's gone. He's never coming back. And now it's as though all of it was for nothing. For five years I held onto the dream of showing up on his doorstep with my Wonderbolt uniform on, and now that dream has been lost forever. And that's all I've been able to think about. The loss of my dream upsets me more than the loss of my only father. I don't know how I should feel about that, but I don't exactly feel bad about it. Maybe it's because that was the last thing I really needed him for."

Silence fell between them. Scootaloo continued to stare down at her hooves, unsure of what to say. Rainbow looked around the room, suddenly numb to all of the memories that were swirling around her head. For every positive memory that made her regret never seeing her father again, there were several negative memories that made her glad that she had not.

"I wish I hadn't come back here," she said, grunting with frustration. "This house has nothing for me but memories that I want to forget. I don't want any of it."

She turned and briskly exited the room. Scootaloo remained in place, thinking hard on everything she had said. In one day, she learned more about Rainbow's past than she had in all the years they had known each other. The house itself seemed like a treasure trove of information that Scootaloo would have loved to have access to years ago, but with everything she had just learned, she began to wish that it was all still a vague and elusive mystery.

She looked back to the pictures on the dresser. The picture to the far left depicted a young, cutie mark-less Rainbow Dash looking down at her wings with unbridled excitement as she hovered in midair. Her first time flying, perhaps?

The next picture over depicted a birthday party being held in a place Scootaloo didn't recognize, but looked somewhat similar to Sugarcube Corner. Rainbow Dash, still a cutie mark-less filly, was wearing a party hat and surrounded by several fillies of the same age. Her father stood just behind her, smiling down upon the young birthday girl as she beamed widely for the camera.

The next picture that sat to the right of the picture of Rainbow's mother depicted a less-than-enthusiastic Rainbow Dash as she stood just outside what appeared to be a school with a saddlebag hanging along the side of her body.

The final picture on the dresser, the one Rainbow Dash had glared so fiercely at, depicted her now with a cutie mark, turned to the side as though she was showing it off for the camera. Her father stood beside her, his hoof around her neck and a sense of pride visible in his face that matched that of his daughter. Scootaloo stared at the picture for several minutes. She assumed that it had been taken on the day Rainbow had received her cutie mark. Anypony who saw it would have probably thought that they had a relationship that a father and daughter ought to have. There did not appear to be anything in any of the pictures Scootaloo had scanned through that would have suggested the antagonistic relationship that Rainbow Dash claimed she had with her father.

Scootaloo finally left the room, unable to obtain any concrete answers from the photographs.

"Rainbow Dash?"

There was no response. Looking around, she noticed that the door of the second room was opened where it was previously closed.

She slowly made her way into the room, which she surmised as being Rainbow's old bedroom. It was mostly empty except for a bed and a small bedside table. Rainbow Dash was sitting upon the bed, looking forward out the window with the same emotionless expression from the day before. Scootaloo sat down beside her.

"This feels so stupid now," Rainbow whispered. "Maybe I should have come back."

Scootaloo leaned against her. "You didn't know. You couldn't have known."

Rainbow said nothing, her eyes lowering to the floor.

"I know you cared about him," said Scootaloo. "And he cared about you, too. Why else would he have kept those pictures on his dresser?"

"It doesn't mean anything. He was just as happy to have me out of his life as I was to have him out of mine," replied Rainbow.

"Maybe at first. But I think he might have missed you. Besides, can you really say that you didn't miss him these last five years?"

"Well, I guess I won't ever find out, will I?" Rainbow responded as though she had not heard the question. "It's over with, and the only thing I have left to do now is leave this place behind the same way I did five years ago, but for good this time."

Scootaloo grunted with frustration. "It seems like you're just trying to reject your feelings. I know this affects you. You don't have to keep it in. Just let it out."

"What do you want?" asked Rainbow with sudden hostility in her voice. "For me to just break down right here, right now? For me to say how much I'm going to miss him, and how much my life will be different without him? It's not going to happen. Because when I truly think about it, I think I'm going to get through this just fine in the end. And besides, crying has never really been my thing."

Scootaloo sighed, accepting defeat once again.

"There's nothing left for me here, Scoot," Rainbow Dash said as she removed herself from the bed. "You can't move forward if you keep looking back. Let's go."

Scootaloo made no argument as she stood up and followed Rainbow back down to the front door. Just as they exited the house, Mr. Grimmtock landed in front of them, wearing the same solemn expression he had the day before. His sudden appearance took them both by surprise.

"I had a feeling I would find you here," he said.

"What is it now?" Rainbow moaned, as she had hoped that she had seen the last of him.

"Forgive me, but there's something I need to give you."

He pulled an envelope out of a pocket in his dress suit. "Your father wrote this a few days ago while he was in the hospital. It's addressed to you. I would have given it to you yesterday, though unfortunately, I was not informed about it until this morning. I was going to drop it off in your mailbox, but I decided that it should be delivered personally."

"Uhh...thanks," said Rainbow Dash. She took the letter cautiously, as though expecting this to be some sort of prank.

Grimmtock bowed and flew away without a word. Rainbow looked at the back of the envelope. Scrawled in what she recognized as her father's penmanship was a single line:

To my daughter, Rainbow Dash

Rainbow squinted her eyes. As far as she knew, what she was holding in her hoof were her father's final words to her—the words that he was not able to say to her in person. And what would they be? Was he simply reminding her one final time that she would never become a Wonderbolt, or were they something a little more meaningful—something that would truly make her regret not seeing him again before his death?

"Aren't you going to open it?" asked Scootaloo, eyeing the letter with great curiosity.

Rainbow shook her head. "Not right now. Let's head back."

Scootaloo hopped on Rainbow's back and she took off to the sky, taking a final look at the house before she climbed too high and could no longer tell which one it was.

Chapter 3 -- The Party

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Rainbow Dash stared down miserably at a plate of haysteaks in front of her, finding no desire to eat in spite of how hungry she was. It had been a long day, consisting of nothing but darting straight up high into the sky, and then coming back down with up to six times the velocity in the hopes of making a sonic boom burst through the sky in a spectacle of colors. Except that it never happened. Not today, not yesterday, and there was no reason to expect that it would happen tomorrow either. Regardless, she had to keep trying. The stakes were just too high: an instant spot into the Wonderbolts when she reached a mature age. She had done it once before, and she simply needed to do it again, even if it was for the very last time. But with every failure, the fear that she would never be able to pull it off again only sunk in deeper and deeper, and she did not exactly find herself in the best of moods.

"What's the matter with you? Eat," said a voice from across the table.

"I don't feel like it," Rainbow Dash replied dejectedly.

"Well, I wish you had told me that before I fixed your plate," said the voice with irritation. "What's wrong?"

Rainbow looked up from the plate into the eyes of her father.

"I still can't do it," she said. "I don't understand why."

"Do what?"

"The Sonic Rainboom," answered Dash.

Rainbow Blaze rolled his eyes with frustration.

"Isn't it bad enough that you were suspended from Flight Camp? Why do you insist on humiliating me further?"

"Why do you always have to bring up Flight Camp?" Dash snapped. "I was suspended for helping a friend. I didn't know that was such a crime."

'"Helping a friend?!'" he roared, nearly jumping up from his seat. "You could have put those ponies in the hospital! And who do you think would have had to pay their bills if you did?! You should have just tended to your own business and not gotten involved."

Rainbow Dash looked back down at her plate, now fighting the urge to throw it against the wall.

"Why do I need to go to Flight Camp anyway? None of those ponies can fly half as well as me! I'm already good enough for the Wonderbolts."

Blaze shook his head. "You can hold onto that fantasy all you want, but sooner or later, you're going to have to choose a career for yourself."

"I already have chosen a career," Dash said defiantly. "I just have to do a Sonic Rainboom one more time and I'm guaranteed a spot in the Wonderbolts when I get older."

Blaze shook his head again, his patience wearing thin.

"They wanted you to prove that it wasn't just a fluke. Clearly, the fact that you're struggling to do it again means that it indeed was just a fluke."

"No, it wasn't!" retorted Dash. "I can do it again. I know I can."

"It's impossible," said Blaze, staring hard at her.

"Yeah, it was impossible. But guess what? I did it. And I have the cutie mark to prove it."

Her father grunted with frustration, resigning himself to the notion that he may as well have been arguing with a rock.

"It was a one-in-a-million occurrence," he said. "It's never going to happen again, no matter how hard you try. All you're doing is wasting time that can be better spent on something more constructive."

Rainbow Dash's eyes lowered once again. "I don't want any other career. I want to be a Wonderbolt..."

"You and many other pegasi out there. But the odds are stacked against you. You might just have to accept that it's not meant to be. Because it's probably not."

He turned back to his own plate of haysteaks and continued eating, completely ignoring Rainbow Dash as she removed herself from the table and ran up to her room. She slammed the door shut from behind her and threw herself onto her bed, silently beginning to weep...


Rainbow Dash awoke to a knock at her door. She found herself lying flat, facedown on her bed. It had been a long and largely sleepless night, with her mind still heavily weighed down by thoughts and memories that refused to leave her alone. On nights when sleep did not come easy, she often took to the skies in a moonlight nighttime fly to put her mind at ease. Yet unfortunately, even that had failed to grant her much sleep. The light of dawn gradually rose through her windows. Rainbow's eyes failed to adjust well to the light as she lifted her head. Her her mane was wildly disheveled and bags hung under her eyes, representing how little sleep she had managed to get.

As she stumbled out of bed, the knock was heard again.

"I'm coming!" Rainbow grumbled irritably.

She flew down to the front door and opened it to see Thunderlane, who blinked twice at her less-than-presentable appearance.

"What?" she demanded.

"Oh, umm...it's...uhhh...well, if you remember, you had Saturday's rain rescheduled to Monday. Well...it's Monday."

Rainbow blinked. "It is?"

She had lost any and all grasp on time from the moment her life had come to a standstill. However, she now understood why Scootaloo had told her that she needed to go home since she had school the next day.

"Yeah, it is," answered Thunderlane with a cock of his eyebrow. "Are you all right, Rainbow Dash?"

She shook her head instantly.

"I'm fine. Just...go and get everypony started. I'll be out soon."

Thunderlane nodded and flew off. Rainbow Dash closed the door as the events of the previous day re-entered her mind.

And she suddenly remembered the letter.

She hurried back to her bedroom to find it sitting upon her bedside table, still unopened and unread. She picked it up, as though simply seeing it with her eyes was not enough to prove its existence.

To my daughter, Rainbow Dash

That was his writing, beyond any doubt. Surely this meant that the letter inside had been written by him as well. The internal struggle that had plagued her from the moment she had received the letter rose up within her once again. If she wanted to, she could open it and read it now, just to get it over with. Regardless of what was written inside, it would not change the fact that he was gone forever. However, she was still filled with worry as to what his final words to her would say. They would surely have a lasting affect on her, and she would remember them for the rest of her life.

She turned the envelope around and began to open it. When it was half-open, she stopped instantly, as though suddenly under the impression that she was making a terrible mistake. She placed it back on her bedside table, slowly shaking her head.

Not right now.

Also sitting upon her bedside table was the Wonderbolt letter, which had been opened and read through multiple times. She picked it up to read through it once again.

Dear Rainbow Dash,

Your journey to the Wonderbolts has nearly reached its end. As mentioned in the previous letter, we will need you to come to our headquarters in Cloudsdale for some basic exercises. These exercises may seem simple for a flyer of your caliber, but they should be taken seriously nonetheless. After all, this will be the first time you will be flying for the Wonderbolts. They will take place next Saturday at 2:00 PM sharp. We would advise you not to be late.

Also as mentioned in the previous letter, now that you're in the Reserves, you have earned the right to wear an official Wonderbolt uniform, which must be worn for the exercises. This is an honor that should not be taken lightly, as it signifies that you are now part of the Wonderbolts. You will receive it when you come in, along with guidelines for taking proper care of it which you shall be expected to follow.

Once again, we congratulate you for making it this far.

Stromm Skyrider
Membership Division
Office of the Wonderbolts

There would not have been adequate enough words to describe even a fraction of her excitement had she received a letter like this before a few days ago. She had finally made it—she had secured a long overdue spot into the Wonderbolts. And yet, even after her fourteenth time reading through the letter, excitement failed to settle upon her nerves.

Instead, it almost felt like a cruel joke. It was as though some malevolent force had stripped away her wings and laughed maliciously as she crawled about aimlessly, with no direction or purpose. Becoming a Wonderbolt was her dream and her life's goal—there was no doubt about that. And yet, it had come too late. Far too late.

She would finally be wearing a Wonderbolt uniform, but instead of showing up on her father's doorstep, she would be attending his funeral the very next day. Being so close to fulfilling her five-year dream only to have it ripped away from her at the very last minute was unspeakably irritating. She had been so close, and yet now it was to be lost forever in the field of dreams long broken.

She placed the letter back on the table and sighed deeply. You've made it. You're practically in the Wonderbolts now. You've proved him wrong, even if he won't ever know it. Just let that be enough.

With the shock of her father's death passed, Rainbow now felt that it was time to get her life back on track, and performing her daily job seemed a good enough place to start. She took several minutes to restore herself back to her normal state, and then finally headed out into the cool, morning air to create the day's weather.


Turning a nearly cloudless morning into a rainy day was always a daunting task. Covering every last inch of Ponyville's skies with clouds took a mountain of effort, and it often consumed up to three hours to accomplish. Busting clouds was not only much more fun and less time consuming, but Rainbow Dash found that it was a fantastic way to relieve stress and take her mind off of anything that had been bothering her. There was something mildly therapeutic about kicking a cloud with enough force to make it burst and vanish into thin air.

The Ponyville Weather Team was spread about every corner of the sky, filling it with clouds until they moved closer together and eventually merged. As tedious a task as it was, Rainbow was unusually content to be doing it. She finally felt as though she were gaining her life back and pushing it back into motion. But it was not enough to rid her of the lingering thoughts that had kept her awake, as they still consumed every crevice her mind. She thought about the funeral and whether or not she would truly be comfortable with going through with it. She also thought about the letter, and wondered if she should open it before or after the funeral took place...or if she should even open it at all. And she thought about when exactly she was going to tell...

No. They were not going to know about this—not if she could help it. It was not a conversation that she wanted to have, nor one that she even ready to have. They would not understand, just like Scootaloo did not understand. It would simply be better if they never found out.

After three and a half hours, there was hardly a single trace of the sun to be found through the thick clouds. The air was much cooler, and the wind had picked up significantly. Rainbow regrouped with the Weather Team just as the first tiny droplets of rain began to fall.

"Great work, guys," she said. "I guess that's it for today."

The team dispersed, with many of the pegasi heading back home to regain their lost sleep. Rainbow did not expect many ponies to be out on the streets of Ponyville today. The flower ponies in particular were often content enough when the rain was doing their watering for them.

Within minutes, the tiny droplets became full-fledged raindrops, and it soon began to pour. The rain splattered down upon Rainbow's head as she wondered what to do next. She usually took her afternoon naps earlier whenever she was tasked with a time-consuming cloud job. Yet for some reason she could not explain, she felt perfectly content beneath the clouds, as though the rain was finally washing away her thoughts and granting her mind peace. She lowered herself to the ground and laid down upon her back, her forelegs spread out wide, staring emotionless into the sky as the rain showered down upon her. She felt a sense of belonging, as though taking a nap here would strangely seem more comfortable than a nap in her own bed. She closed her eyes as the chill of the wind made her shiver.

Without a reason that made any logical sense to her, Rainbow Dash began to sing in a low voice.

"So many clouds scattered across the sky
The softest of pillows lying way up high
Twisted and formed to the whims of a dream
Like fortresses of the heavens or castles of ice cream
Whiter than snow, and lighter than air
Casting shadows everywhere

But today they cry
Today they weep
Today their agony darkens the sky
The sun is gone, the air is cold
Because today they cry"

As though awakening from a nightmare, she jolted upward. She looked around frantically, as if worried that she was being watched. Much to her relief, there was not a single pony in sight. Rainbow picked herself off the ground and flew back home, suddenly feeling utterly embarrassed.


A saddened Rainbow Dash was curled up upon her bed, staring outside her window into the starry night. Never in all her young life had she felt so much disappointment. She had spent months getting hyped up for the possibility of the Equestria Games being held in Cloudsdale, only to find out that they would be going to Fillydelphia instead. It had been a colossal blow, as Cloudsdale would not be up for selection again for several years. As Rainbow looked squarely into the face of the moon, she suddenly heard her door open.

"Are you alright, hon?" asked her father.

Dash said nothing as he entered the room and took a seat on her bed, her eyes remaining fixed onto the moon.

"Are you still mad at me for making a scene?" she asked.

"No," he answered, gently stroking the top of her head. "This wasn't the first time Cloudsdale was passed up for the Games. It happened when I was a little older than you, and I felt the exact same way."

"It's not fair," grumbled Dash.

"I know," her father nodded. "But that's just the way it goes sometimes."

Rainbow Dash sighed. "I don't understand why it isn't always held in Cloudsdale. It's most for pegasi anyway, right? What does Fillydelphia have that we don't?"

"Well, it's on the ground, for one thing. That makes it a lot easier for non-pegasus ponies to attend."

Rainbow scoffed, accepting that notion as ridiculous.

"You're young, so I doubt you'll understand this now, but you're going to have to get used to disappointments like these," said Blaze. "Life is full of them."

"But why?" asked Dash, suddenly filled with hopelessness.

"Because life isn't fair," he answered. "That's why...she isn't here."

Dash solemnly lowered her ears.

"Many parents try to shield their kids from the realities of life," he continued. "That's what my parents did to me. But I don't believe that would be a benefit you, especially since you're growing up without a mother. I don't want you to go through life thinking that everything you have your heart set on is going to work out."

Dash removed herself from her curled position and sat beside her father.

"But some things work out, don't they?" she asked, staring up at him.

"Of course," Blaze answered, wrapping his foreleg around her. "I could have lost you, too."

Dash leaned against him and they sat silently reflecting in the comfort of each other's company. The death of Sunstreak Shine had frequently taken its toll on both of them, and at this point, they were now the only family each other had. Rainbow Dash had so longed to wonder what her mother was like, and during moments like these, she would often ask her father to tell her a story that had either occurred during the brief time she was alive during her infanthood, or about a time before they had married. But at this particular moment, she did not feel that urge.

"I think I know something you would be excited about," said Blaze after a minute of silence had passed.


"Well, younger ponies are designated as flag-carriers in the Equestria Games to represent the passing of generations. You might get the chance to carry Cloudsdale's flag in the Games if you can put on a good enough routine."

"REALLY?!" Rainbow beamed.

He nodded. "That's right."

Rainbow jumped off the bed and looped around in midair. "Oh yeah! I'm totally gonna carry that flag!"

"Remember what I just told you," said Blaze. "The more you get invested into something, the more painful it will be if you don't end up getting it. Most of the ponies in your class will likely be competing for the chance to carry the flag as well. It's fine to be optimistic, but you have to expect that it may not be you."

Rainbow lowered herself to the ground and nodded, her excitement partially faded.

"Okay, okay. Do you think it'll be me, though?"

Blaze stared at her for a brief moment and nodded. "Of course I do."

Rainbow Dash grinned widely and her wings fluttered involuntarily.

"Now, come on, it's time for bed," said Blaze. "You have Junior Speedster Camp tomorrow."

Rainbow Dash climbed into bed and her father tucked her in beneath the blankets.

"Goodnight, Dad."

"Goodnight, sweetheart."

He kissed the top of her head and left her room.


Seated at her kitchen table, Rainbow Dash stared down at her last bottle of apple cider, silently debating upon whether or not she should gulp it down. She knew that if she did so, she would not be able to get any more until cider season, and that was several months away. Strewn across the table were six empty cider bottles that she had just finished gulping down without much hesitation. Now that she was on her final one, the reality of going the next several months without cider presented itself with unbearable vividness.

She sighed with frustration as she kept herself from opening the bottle. Keep it together, Dash. Stop doing this to yourself. You just have to give it some time. Things will feel normal again soon.

Her eyes trailed to the window and she silently watched the raindrops fall. It was nearly impossible to believe that only two days ago she was sitting in this very spot, checking the window every few seconds to spot the arrival of the mailpony. The atmosphere seemed on an almost entirely opposite wavelength. Where before she had been filled with excitement, she as now filled with uncertainty. Where before the weather had been hot and sunny, it was now cold and rainy. And where before she had been enjoying the company of Scootaloo, she was now all alone.

Pushing the bottle away, she folded her forelegs on the table and buried her face in them. Gulping down all that cider had filled her with exhaustion, and she was already deprived of sleep as it was. Though before she had the chance to silently doze off, there was yet another knock on her door. Groaning with frustration, Rainbow Dash trudged over the door and opened it to see a soaking wet Fluttershy.

"Hi, Rainbow Dash," she said.

"Oh...hey, Fluttershy," Rainbow replied with an indistinguishable sense of nervousness in her voice. "Come in."

Fluttershy stepped inside the foyer.

"How have you been? We missed you this weekend."

"Oh, I've been...fine," Rainbow answered, shutting the door.

"So, what's new?" asked Fluttershy.

"Uhhh...nothing, really," Rainbow replied. "Why do you ask?"

Fluttershy raised a suspicious eyebrow. Rainbow Dash stared blankly at her, trying not to show that she was hiding something. She was suddenly struck with a strong discomfort, as she briefly considered the possibility that Fluttershy might have found out somehow.

"Uhh, you know, I visited Cloudsdale yesterday," she said in an attempt to alleviate her discomfort.

"Oh. We wanted to invite you to a picnic yesterday, but we couldn't find you anywhere. I guess that explains why," said Fluttershy.

"Yeah, sorry about that," Rainbow replied with relief, as it appeared that Fluttershy did not know after all.

"Umm, anyway, we're all meeting at Sugarcube Corner to wait out the rain," Fluttershy explained. "I'm here to invite you to join us."

Rainbow's eyes dropped to the floor. "I...I don't know, Fluttershy. I was kinda...in the middle of something."

"Oh, please won't you come?" Fluttershy begged. "We haven't seen you all weekend, and it won't be as much fun without you."

Rainbow sighed under her breath. "All right, fine."

Fluttershy let out a subtle squeal of excitement.

They left the house, and flew out into the rain. Rainbow Dash could feel no more comfort from the raindrops; they now felt as cold and unpleasant as ever. The wind once again chilled her to the bone, as did the prospect of seeing her friends for the first time since she had received the news of her father's death.

Come on, Rainbow Dash, calm down. You're just going to see your friends. There's absolutely nothing to feel nervous about.

Within minutes, the two pegasi landed just outside of Sugarcube Corner. Rainbow Dash walked up and slowly opened the door.


Rainbow jolted with shock as she stared mystified into the grinning faces of her five friends, Spike included. Hung high between two opposite walls was a banner that read "CONGRATS, RAINBOW DASH!" and two tables in the room were laden with cupcakes, punch, and other such sweets, including leftover rock candy that they had not used during Maud Pie's visit.

"W-What is this...?" asked Rainbow, utterly bewildered.

"It's a congratulatory party!" answered Fluttershy, stepping into the room and shutting the door behind her.

"For what?" asked Rainbow. She was struck with several looks of suspicion and confusion, much like the one Fluttershy had given her.

"For getting into the Wonderbolts, duh!" exclaimed Pinkie Pie.

"Or at least for finally gettin' to wear one of their uniforms," said Applejack. "You only mentioned it to us about fifty times over the past week."

"Oh, right...," said Rainbow, still reeling in shock. "You guys really didn't need to do this."

"Of course we did!" said Twilight. "You've been trying to get into the Wonderbolts for as long as any of us have known you, and now you're practically there. What kind of friends would we be if we didn't celebrate your success?"

"We couldn't be more happy for you, Rainbow Dash," said Fluttershy, smiling wide at her.

"I, for one, cannot wait to see you in your uniform," said Rarity. "It's high time you've had a style all your own."

"Well, don't leave us in the dark," urged Twilight. "When does your lifelong dream finally come true?"

Every eye in the room fell directly on Rainbow Dash, anticipating her answer. But as she opened her mouth to speak, her vision suddenly blurred and her ears lowered. Before she knew what was happening, she felt a wet sensation run down her right cheek, and not two seconds later, a similar sensation ran down her left cheek. It was a sensation that she was not very familiar with, nor very fond of, yet it had now thoroughly overtaken her as the tiny, wet droplets continued to slip from her eyes.

"Uhh...Rainbow?" asked Twilight.

"Oh my goodness, what's wrong?" asked Fluttershy, putting a hoof around her neck.

Rainbow looked up to see the now-concerned faces of her friends through her wet, blurry vision.

"I...I can't...," she said softly.

And Rainbow Dash turned and rushed back out the door, quickly disappearing into the rain.

Chapter 4 -- A Touch of Kindness

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Fluttershy cycled through the faces of her friends, hoping to see some look of understanding as to what had just happened, but they all appeared to be just as shocked as she was.

The sight of Rainbow Dash crying was so rare that coming across a zebra living in Equestria could have been a more common sight (and as far as anypony knew, there was only one, and she lived deep within the Everfree Forest).

"Oh my, I hope it wasn't something I said," said Rarity, staring out into the rain.

"Or something I said," remarked Twilight.

"Would you happen to know anythin', Fluttershy?" asked Applejack.

Fluttershy shook her head. "She seemed fine when I went to invite her, except that...she didn't want to come at first."

"Why not?" asked Applejack.

"Umm, she said that she was in the middle of something."

The still-open door allowed cold air and the sound of splattering rain to fill the room, and Twilight magically closed it. Pinkie Pie looked almost distraught: the feeling of somepony actually rejecting one of her parties was just as painful as the feeling of somepony rejecting her as a friend.

"Well, I wish we knew what that 'somethin'' was, 'cause I'm just not sure what would make her react like that," replied Applejack.

"The cancellation of the Daring Do series probably would," Twilight suggested. "But I would know if that had happened."

"Perhaps she was simply touched by our throwing a party on her behalf?" questioned Rarity.

"Maybe, but I'm not sure why that would have made her run off," replied Twilight.

Pinkie Pie lowered her ears. "Why would she cry? My parties are supposed to make ponies smile..."

"I'm sure it has nothin' to do with you, Pinkie," consoled Applejack.

"Yeah," agreed Twilight. "I'm sure it's just..."

She suddenly went silent for a few moments and then whispered "Oh no..."

"What wrong, Twi?" asked Spike.

"Maybe this is our fault....," she said as every eye in the room fell upon her.

"What do you mean, Twilight?" asked Fluttershy.

"What if...what if she's not in the Wonderbolts Reserves after all?"

"That can't be it. We all saw her acceptance form," noted Applejack.

"I know, but...what if something happened? What if there was a followup test or something that she didn't pass? What if she lost her membership? Think about it. It would explain why we haven't seen her all weekend. She probably didn't know how to break the news to us after all the effort we put in to helping her get into the Reserves."

The room fell silent for several moments.

"Oh dear. You may be right, Twilight," said Rarity. "This party must have been too much for her to bear."

"Oh no!" cried Fluttershy. "That would explain why she didn't mention getting her letter when I asked her if there was anything new. I think you are right, Twilight!"

Every head in the room suddenly hung, every ear lowered. They were each reminded of how they felt when their arguing about which study method was best had caused Rainbow Dash to fly off in frustration, finally accepting that none of their methods would work for her and that she would never pass the Reserves exam.

"What have we done...?"



Rainbow Dash zipped through the air, barely able to see where she was going while the raindrops stung her face. Tears continued to fall, blending in perfectly with the rain as they slipped from her eyes.

You blew it. All you had to do was keep it together, and you blew it. And now...now they know that there's something wrong, and you're going to have to tell them everything. Nice going, Rainbow Dash.

She suddenly changed direction and shot straight up into the sky until she was above the rain clouds. She plopped herself down upon a solitary leftover cloud that had not been used to create the rain. The sun cast a unique glow on the clouds below, making her feel like she was drifting along an ocean of gray.

All Rainbow Dash could think about was the grinning faces of her friends, as she had immediately realized something the moment she saw them—something that she had truly wished was not true. She felt nothing. Nothing. Not the slightest bit of happiness, joy, or fulfillment from the fact that she was mere days away from finally realizing her "lifelong dream", as Twilight so accurately put it. All the years she had tried so hard to get the Wonderbolts to notice her, all the years she had watched them perform and imagined herself among them, all the years she had fantasized about the day her time finally came was about to culminate into a painfully bitter and unsatisfying conclusion.

Why? Why does it have to be like this?

A fresh set of tears leaked from Rainbow's eyes and she instantly wiped them away. It was now clearly apparent that the death of her father was holding her down like a solid wall that she was chained to by all four hooves. It was impossible to escape it—impossible to let it go and move forward, as she so desperately wished to. Putting her life back on track now seemed like a harder task than ever. And to think that she had foolishly assumed that she was going to get through his passing without shedding so much as a single tear...

Rainbow stared bitterly up into the sky.

"You think this is funny, don't you? Go ahead and have your laugh. It doesn't change the fact that you were wrong all this time. You can't hold me back anymore. It may be hard right now, but I know I'll be just fine without you. So go ahead and have your laugh now, while you still can. Because soon you'll see just how little it matters to me."

With nothing left to say, Rainbow Dash buried her face in the cloud.


A pegasus belongs only in the air, and anything less does not make a shred of sense. That was how Rainbow Dash always felt, and thus she did not particularly enjoy being on the ground herself. Yet she somehow found herself there anyway, following closely behind Fluttershy as they flew mere inches above the earth.

Fluttershy had told her that she wanted to show her something—something that she would supposedly never be able to see in Cloudsdale. Rainbow reluctantly agreed to come, but certainly did not expect that the trip would be worth her time. They were in the area where Fluttershy had received her cutie mark, which she now visited every single day after Flight Camp. Trees were scattered about and the earth was populated with grass as far as the eye could see, even covering the hills in the distance. Among the grass were bushes and shrubs, which shook slightly as they passed by, the animals inside reacting to their presence. Looking around at the scenery, Rainbow Dash realized exactly what it was that she hated most about the ground: far too much green.

"Are we almost there, Fluttershy?" Rainbow asked impatiently.

"It's right up ahead," answered Fluttershy, pointing at a tree a short distance away.

"This had better be worth the trip down here," Rainbow said with annoyance, unsure about what could be so particularly interesting about a tree.

"Just trust me. You've never seen anything like this," Fluttershy assured her.

When they reached the tree, Fluttershy elevated herself to the highest branch, where a bird's nest sat with four blue eggs bunched together beside a robin who looked pleased to see her.

"Is it time?" Fluttershy asked the robin.

The robin chirped in a jovial fashion. Rainbow Dash rose to Fluttershy's level and hovered in place beside her.

"Oh, goodness! I can't wait!" Fluttershy cried with boundless enthusiasm. She pointed a hoof in Rainbow's direction. "This is my friend, Rainbow Dash. I hope it's okay that I invited her. I really wanted her to see."

The robin looked in Rainbow's direction and chirped.

"She says hello, and that she's happy you came," said Fluttershy to Rainbow Dash.

"You can understand her?" she asked, her eyes widened.

"Well...yes," answered Fluttershy. "I told you this was my special gift."

Rainbow Dash was taken aback. She never would have thought that Fluttershy possessed an ability that she would actually be impressed by, and perhaps even a bit envious of.

"Hi, there," she said with a small wave, and the bird chirped happily again.

"Oh my goodness, this is it!" Fluttershy squealed as one of the eggs suddenly began to vibrate, with the other three following after.

They watched as the surface of the eggs began to crack near the top. The cracks soon turned into holes, where tiny beaks could be seen poking through. The beaks persisted to push, and the cracks eventually formed an opening, allowing bare bodies to become more and more visible. Freedom grew ever closer as the three baby robins spent the next several minutes squirming out of their restrictive shells. They paused multiple times, as though suddenly giving up on their freedom in spite of how close it was. However, after a few brief seconds, they continued to push with even more determination than before.

"Is this not the most beautiful thing you've ever seen in your life?" whispered Fluttershy, appearing to be on the brink of tears.

Rainbow said nothing, transfixed by what she was seeing. As Fluttershy said, she had never seen anything like this before. Though she had seen many birds in her young life, she had never once wondered about how they were born.

Within ten minutes, each of the four babies finally escaped their eggs. The robin nestled them in her wings.

"Congratulations," said Fluttershy. "You have beautiful children."

The robin chirped appreciatively.

Fluttershy turned to Rainbow Dash, still stunned silent.

"Come on, let's go," she whispered.

After staring at the newborn birds for another few seconds, Rainbow followed Fluttershy down to the base of the tree.

"Well? Was it worth the trip down here?" asked Fluttershy.

Rainbow blinked with awe, surprised that she was actually impressed by what Fluttershy had wanted to show her.

"That was...amazing."

Fluttershy grinned with satisfaction. "Want to see more? Follow me."

Rainbow trailed behind her as she flew over to another tree with a large hole in its center. Hovering just outside the hole, Fluttershy peaked her head inside to see a pair of squirrels with three babies.

"Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Chipperson. How are they doing today?"

The pair of squirrels squeaked happily.

"That's wonderful to hear," Fluttershy beamed. "I hope you don't mind, but I brought my friend here to see them. Is that okay?"

The squirrels looked over at Rainbow Dash and squeaked.

"Why, thank you," Fluttershy replied. "Oh, and would you mind if—," she whispered something to them that Rainbow Dash could not hear.

"Thank you. I promise she'll be very careful," Fluttershy replied to another squeak from the pair of squirrels.

Fluttershy moved away from the hole and turned towards Rainbow. "Take a look. These babies were born last week."

Rainbow Dash looked inside at the three babies. They were almost completely hairless, all eyes snapped shut, and curled up together with little motion between them.

"Awww...", she said, in spite of herself.

"Do you want to hold one?" asked Fluttershy. "They said that you could."

"Really?" Rainbow beamed, now knowing what Fluttershy whispered.

"Only if you be very careful. They're very weak and fragile."

Rainbow nodded. "Okay."

Fluttershy moved back towards the hole and pulled out one of the babies, carefully placing it into Rainbow's hooves.

Rainbow Dash's heart melted at the sight of the tiny creature shivering in her grasp. It was the most helpless and innocent being that she had ever seen in her young life. It was so small and fragile that she feared that even the slightest sudden movement could be life-threatening. As she hovered in place, holding the helpless creature in her forelegs, she thought about the frailty of its life. Were something to happen, were it to be abandoned or left on its own, the poor creature would never survive. The only way it would live on to mature was by its mother nurturing it with enough love and care to allow it to grow. Rainbow was instantly reminded of her mother's picture—how she had held her infant self with the same undying love and care.

"Hey there, little guy," she said softly to the tiny creature. It stirred uncomfortably and then went still, as though it had finally found comfort in her forelegs.

"Why are his eyes closed?" Rainbow asked. "Is he asleep?"

Fluttershy shook her head. "Many small mammals are born blind. They don't usually open their eyes until they're a few weeks old."

"Oh," Rainbow replied. She carefully released the newborn squirrel back to Fluttershy, who gently placed it back in the tree.

"I'll be back to check on them next week," she told the parents. "Remember to keep them cozy and warm, and no solid foods."

The pair of squirrels squeaked in appreciation. Fluttershy smiled and flew off, with Rainbow Dash following beside her.

"Thanks, Fluttershy," she said. "That was really nice. With how things have been going for me lately, I really needed this."

Fluttershy frowned. "What's been bothering you?"

"Well, as I've told you, one more Sonic Rainboom is the only thing standing between me and an instant spot in the Wonderbolts, but I still haven't been able to pull it off. And now my dad is getting on my case about it, and that's really getting annoying. He doesn't think I'll ever be a Wonderbolt."

"Well, I truly hope you get into the Wonderbolts someday. I hope you get everything you've ever wanted out of life. And if there's anything I can do to help, I'll do it. You don't even have to ask."

Rainbow blinked. "Really?"

Fluttershy stopped near a burrow and was greeted by a family of bunnies.

"Of course. I recently came to realize that discovering my love of animals, getting my cutie mark, I owe that all to you,"

"What do you mean?" Rainbow asked, stopping beside her.

"Well, I've always been afraid to come down to the ground. I never would have come down here on my own, and if that had happened, I never would have realized just how much I love it here," Fluttershy answered. The bunnies returned inside their burrow.

Rainbow Dash raised an eyebrow. "I...don't follow."

"Don't you get it?" Fluttershy asked, turning towards her. "If not for you standing up for me, if not for the race, I never would have fallen down here."

Rainbow Dash winced with surprise. It had been weeks since that race, and all this time, she had feared that Fluttershy might have held some resentful feelings towards her for not stopping the race to save her from falling, particularly when the entire purpose of the race was to defend her. The notion that Fluttershy was actually appreciative to her for it was downright inconceivable.

"But...you could have died!" exclaimed Rainbow. "And I was too focused on trying to win that I didn't even notice that you fell. I would have saved you if I had known."

"And if you had, nothing would have changed," Fluttershy pointed out. "I still would have been too afraid to come to the ground. I still would have never found out about my gift and gotten my cutie mark."

Fluttershy suddenly threw her forehooves around Rainbow's neck.

"You helped me discover my destiny, so I will do anything I can to help you realize your dream."

Though still struck with confusion, Rainbow Dash accepted her embrace, curling her mouth into a smile.


"Rainbow Dash?"

Rainbow turned to see Fluttershy hovering just behind her, a look of solemn concern upon her face.

"How'd you find me?" she asked, thankful that her tears had finally stopped falling.

"I remembered how you like to be above the clouds when it's raining. I figured I would find you up here somewhere," replied Fluttershy, taking a seat next to her upon the cloud.

"I guess you're wondering why I did that, right?" Rainbow asked without looking at her.

"I think I already know," replied Fluttershy.

Rainbow Dash turned her head towards her.

Fluttershy took a deep breath. "You lost your Wonderbolts Reserves membership, didn't you?"

"No. That's not it."

"It's not? So you're still in the Reserves?"

Rainbow nodded.

"Oh, thank goodness," Fluttershy said with relief. "We all thought that had to be the reason. I wasn't sure what I could have even said to console you."

Rainbow Dash said nothing, staring down at the cloud upon which they rested.

"So what's really bothering you, then?"

"I don't really want to talk about it, Fluttershy," Rainbow replied.

Fluttershy put a hoof on her shoulder. "The more you shut us out, the more worried we'll be."

Rainbow sighed, knowing that she would have to tell her something.

"It's just....I thought this would be different," she said.

"You thought what would be different?"

"Getting into the Wonderbolts," said Rainbow. "It's just...I don't know. I'm not as happy or excited as I should be."

Fluttershy cocked her head. "Why not?"

Rainbow Dash paused briefly.

"I just keep wondering that it may not be all that it's cracked up to be. What if I've wasted my life pursuing a dream that didn't give me all that I was hoping for?"

"I'm sure it will," said Fluttershy. "Maybe you're just experiencing nerves. After all, this is everything you've always wanted."

"Yeah, it really is," Rainbow said with a nod. "But...I don't know. I mean, my faith in them has been shaken a bit lately. Remember what they did to Soarin back at the Games tryouts? How do I know they won't one day replace me with a better flyer when they need one?"

Fluttershy raised an eyebrow. "A better flyer? Than you?"

Rainbow paused for a brief moment, scratching her chin.

"You're right. That would never happen. But it still doesn't change the fact that they tried to replace one of their own. I mean, that says a lot about their loyalty to each other, doesn't it?"

Fluttershy went silent for a few moments.

"I suppose you're right. But they learned their lesson and I don't think they'll do something like that again."

"I don't know why, but suddenly I'm just having regrets," Rainbow continued. "Like maybe I should have pursed something else."

Fluttershy's eyes widened. "Rainbow Dash...are you saying that you don't want to be a Wonderbolt?"

"No....well, I don't know," Rainbow answered. "All I know is that getting that letter should have been the greatest day of my life....and it just wasn't."

Fluttershy was utterly perplexed. The only other time she had ever heard Rainbow Dash express any notion of not wanting to be a Wonderbolt was when she quit the Wonderbolt Academy, disillusioned by the thought that they rewarded recklessness. In all the years they had known each other, her desire to join that elusive club had never changed or faltered.

"What about your dad?" said Fluttershy.

Rainbow swiftly turned her head towards her. "Huh?!"

"Well, you wanted him to see you wearing your Wonderbolt uniform, right? To prove him wrong?"

Rainbow Dash nodded, turning her head away from Fluttershy again.

"Yeah...I did."

"Well, aren't you at least glad that you're finally going to be able to do that?" asked Fluttershy.

Rainbow Dash went silent for several moments.

"I never saw him again. Not since the day we parted ways five years ago."

"I know," Fluttershy replied.

Rainbow chuckled silently. She had forgotten how much Fluttershy knew about her.

"I'm actually afraid to see him again," she said. "I don't know what he'll say or how he'll react. And somehow I don't think it will give me the satisfaction that I've always imagined it would."

"Maybe that's because it's not meant to give you satisfaction," said Fluttershy.

Rainbow looked at her again. "What?"

"You both allowed this disagreement to ruin the relationship you had. You allowed five years to pass by with no contact—five years that neither of you will ever get back. But once you finally do it, you will have closure, and then you two will at long last be able to rebuild your relationship."

"He's the one who insisted on beating down my dream, remember?" Rainbow said irritably. "I couldn't take it anymore."

"I'm not saying that you were wrong for leaving," said Fluttershy. "But five years without so much as dropping by to say hello? Don't you feel that was a bit much?"

"I told him that he wasn't going to see me again until I was wearing a Wonderbolt uniform, and that was what I meant," Rainbow replied flatly. "If I had saw him any time before then, he wouldn't have let me live it down."

"I don't think that's true at all," retorted Fluttershy. "Haven't you ever thought that maybe your absence caused him to have a change of heart? That maybe he felt sorry for driving you away? That maybe he's spent the last five years missing you? Besides, didn't you miss him?"

Rainbow Dash sighed. This was not the first time she had been faced with that question...

"Trust me. The best thing that's going to come of this is that you two will finally have a chance to repair your relationship," said Fluttershy. "You'll finally have a chance to put it behind you and move forward, making up for lost time."

Rainbow looked down at the rain clouds beneath her. The sound of the raindrops splattering upon the ground below was no longer as loud as it had been, letting her know that the rain was starting to die down.

"That's not going to happen," she said silently.

"Sure, it will. You'll see."

"No! No, it won't!" Rainbow nearly shouted. "And that's because he's—"

"He's what?"

"He's....too stubborn."

"Come on. I think you owe it to him to at least give him a chance," replied Fluttershy.

Rainbow shrugged.

"Perhaps this is why you're nervous about joining the Wonderbolts," Fluttershy suggested. "Maybe you're too worried about seeing your dad again to be excited?"

"Yeah...that could be it," Rainbow nodded.

"Just give him a chance," said Fluttershy. "And when you're finally wearing that Wonderbolt uniform, you'll realize that you've achieved everything you've always wanted, and all your doubts will fade away."

Rainbow Dash did not reply, prompting Fluttershy put her hoof around her.

"I wish you wouldn't keep your feelings bottled up, especially from me. Remember, if there's anything you ever need to talk about, I'm always here for you."

Rainbow hung her head and sighed. "Oh, Fluttershy. I don't deserve a friend like you."

"Don't talk that way," Fluttershy replied sternly.

"But I don't," said Rainbow. "At the Traders Exchange, I traded you away for a stupid book after you had spent all your time with me making sure that I got what I wanted even if you didn't. What kind of friend does that?"

"Oh, that's okay," said Fluttershy. "You realized your mistake. But even if you hadn't, I would have gladly stayed in Manehattan to train the Orthros."

"But why? I had no right to trade you away like that."

"You're worth it," said Fluttershy. "You stood up for me when no one else would. I never would have gotten my cutie mark if it weren't for you, and I'm even more sure of that now that I know that the explosion that scared the animals was your Sonic Rainboom. I owe so much to you."

Rainbow's mouth curled up into a smile. If anypony deserved to be the bearer of the Element of Loyalty, it was Fluttershy. That was much more than she could have said for herself being an ideal bearer for the Element of Honesty. She had just lied to her dearest friend's face, and she did not expect that she was finished lying either. Nevertheless, this talk with Fluttershy had lightened her mood considerably. A little touch of kindness was all she needed.

"Feeling better?" asked Fluttershy, noticing her smile.

Rainbow nodded. "So what do we do now?"

"Well, wouldn't it be best if we went back to Sugarcube Corner? The others are waiting for us there, all thinking that you were rejected from the Reserves."

Rainbow cringed, uncomfortable with the idea of facing her friends again.

"What do I tell them?" she asked.

Fluttershy thought for a moment.

"Well...the truth always works."

Rainbow lowered her ears.

"By the way, you said before that you were in the middle of something. What were you doing?" Fluttershy asked.

Rainbow looked down. She had lied to Fluttershy enough for one day, or at least for one conversation.

"Drinking through all my cider."

Fluttershy did not respond. Rainbow Dash looked over at her and was pierced with a stern look that almost instantly made her regret her actions. Fluttershy's "stare" often seemed to be just as effective with ponies as it was with animals.

"Well, not all of it," said Rainbow. "I still have one bottle left."

"Now, was that really necessary?"

Rainbow sighed with annoyance. "No. It wasn't."

As the two pegasi made their way back, they noticed that the rain had been reduced down to a sprinkle and ponies were beginning to fill the streets once again. It appeared to be evening now, or at least very late in the afternoon. The day had stretched on endlessly for Rainbow Dash, and she was more than ready for it to end. Tomorrow would be another chance to put her life back on track, as most of the rain clouds would surely need cleared away. The difference was that she would be busting the clouds this time, and thus the task would be a dozen times more fun and relaxing.

Pinkie Pie was solemnly drawing invisible frowning faces into the floor with her hoof when the door of Sugarcube Corner opened again.

"Rainbow!" Twilight exclaimed.

"Hey, guys...," Rainbow said as humiliation crept its way through her body.

"Are you alright?" asked Rarity.

"I'm fine, now," she answered. "And before anypony asks, no, I haven't been kicked out of the Wonderbolts Reserves."

A sense of relief washed over the faces of everyone in the room.

"Then what was wrong?" asked Twilight.

Rainbow Dash took a deep breath and looked over at Fluttershy, who motioned for her tell them.

"Well, it's just that...I've been going through some...doubts and stuff but...I'm okay now. Really."

"Doubts?" said Applejack. "Doubts about what?"

"It doesn't matter," said Rainbow with a glance in Fluttershy's direction. "I'm really sorry if I worried you guys. We can have this party now, if that's okay. I'd hate to let all of this go to waste."

Pinkie beamed instantly.

"Are you sure?" Twilight asked.

Rainbow nodded. "Yeah, I'm sure."

Pinkie Pie suddenly ran up to her and threw her forehooves around her neck.

"I'm so super glad you're okay!"

"We all are," said Twilight, and one by one, they each followed suit until hooves and claws were wrapped around every inch of Rainbow's body.

"It's okay guys. It really wasn't that big a deal," Rainbow said, their displays of affection warming her heart.

"So, shall we party?" Rainbow asked as they each released her from their grasp.


It was after dark when Rainbow returned home, all party-ed out. It had gone on as expected, and she successfully avoided revealing more about why she had run off, quickly changing the subject when it was brought up. Lying to her friends made her feel excruciatingly uncomfortable, but she was determined to prevent them from learning the truth.

They wouldn't understand, not even Fluttershy. It would just be better if they didn't find out.

Walking into the kitchen, she saw the empty bottles of cider still strewn across the table with the one full bottle still standing among them. She placed the bottle back in her refrigerator, thankful to herself that she had not drank through it. She then headed up to her bedroom, where the two letters still sat on her bedside table. She picked up the half-open envelope that contained her father's final words to her. Rainbow Dash was once again struck with the urge to open it, even though she had no desire to read through it at the moment. Knowing now that she was always going to be struck with this urge whenever she laid her eyes upon it, she realized that she would need to hide it from view until she was finally ready to read what was inside.

Walking over to her bookshelf nearby, she pulled out Daring Do and the Chest of Mystery and opened it up, preparing to stick the letter inside like a bookmark. Just before she did so, something fell out of the envelope's opening and glided swiftly down to the floor. Rainbow Dash cautiously squinted her eyes down at it.

It appeared to be a photo.

Chapter 5 -- The Crash (And the subsequent burn)

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A quiet afternoon found the Cutie Mark Crusaders in their clubhouse after school. Twilight Time would be starting within an hour, and Sweetie Belle was confident that she was set to impress. By the glow of her horn, three bright, red apples spun rapidly in a circle until they were blurred into what looked like a single red ring suspended in midair. Scootaloo and Apple Bloom looked on with amazement, but for Scootaloo, that amazement was entwined with the tiniest sting of envy.

"Great job, Sweetie Belle!" Apple Bloom said approvingly.

"Okay, next!" said Sweetie Belle, stopping the apples' rotation and levitating them over to Apple Bloom.

She took a few steps back and planted her hooves tightly upon the floor.


Apple Bloom tossed the three apples into the air simultaneously. As they fell, they were each surrounded in a light green aura, stopping in midair before they were able to touch the floor, with the third apple being stopped mere inches away.

"YES!" Sweetie Belle squeaked excitedly.

"Awesome job, Sweetie," praised Scootaloo.

"Yeah, you've come a long way from not even bein' able to lift a broom," said Apple Bloom.

Sweetie Belle blushed at the compliments. "Thanks guys, but let's try something a little more difficult now."

She levitated the three apples back over to Apple Bloom and walked to the opposite edge of the clubhouse.

"I want you to throw the apples right at me, one at a time," she instructed.

Apple Bloom and Scootaloo looked at each other with surprise.

"Are you sure, Sweetie Belle?" asked Scootaloo. "It'll probably hurt if you can't stop it."

"It'll be fine," Sweetie replied. "I'm sure I can do this."

"Okay then...," said Apple Bloom, preparing to throw the first apple.

"I'm ready," said Sweetie Belle after taking a deep breath. "Go."

Apple Bloom threw one of the apples with a moderately high speed. Sweetie Belle squealed and ducked at the last possible second, narrowly avoiding it as it splattered against the wall behind her.

"See? You ain't ready for this," said Apple Bloom.

"I just lost focus for a second," said Sweetie Belle. "Let's try it again."

"Fine, but I'm throwin' it slower this time," replied Apple Bloom.

Sweetie Belle readied herself once again and Apple Bloom threw the second apple with much less speed. Sweetie Belle caught it in her magic before it had traveled halfway towards her.

"That was way too slow," Sweetie said, dissatisfied. "Let's try it one more time. Throw with the same speed as before."

"What's up with you?" asked Scootaloo. "Why are you trying to get this so badly?"

"Well, I was kinda hoping that if I managed to get this down, Twilight might start teaching me some other spells besides just levitation," answered Sweetie Belle.

"Oh...," replied Scootaloo. Another sharp sting of envy pierced her body as she was once again reminded of a time when she and Sweetie Belle had more in common than just their lack of cutie marks.

"What if you lose focus again?" asked Apple Bloom.

"I won't," Sweetie Belle replied confidently. "But if I can't do it this time, we won't try again."

Apple Bloom sighed with acceptance. "If you say so..."

Sweetie Belle returned to her position. "Okay, ready."

After a brief hesitation, Apple Bloom threw the apple with about with the same speed as the first time. It soared towards Sweetie Belle and her horn illuminated just as she turned her head to brace herself for the blow. When she turned her head back again, the apple was suspended in a light green aura, hovering just inches away from her face.

"I did it!" she exclaimed.

"Awesome, Sweetie," praised Scootaloo.

"Yeah," said Apple Bloom. "I actually thought I hit you for a second."

"Well, I'm all set for Twilight Time now," Sweetie Belle said proudly. "How about you guys?"

Scootaloo sighed. "I'm going to skip Twilight Time today."

"What?!" Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle cried in unison.

"I haven't improved at all since last week, not like you guys have. I've been thinking about trying something else, but I'm just not sure what I have to fall back on," said Scootaloo.

"But you're really good!" said Apple Bloom.

"I still haven't moved past needing help from an instruction sheet like you have. There's really nothing that I can do that you guys couldn't with a little bit of practice. I'm just really tired of not really getting anywhere while you guys run laps around me. So...I'm not going—not until I have something else. And besides, I've kinda had a lot on my mind lately."

"Like what?" asked Sweetie Belle.

"Like....I don't know...death. I mean, it's just so cruel sometimes. Well, all the time, actually. We all have ponies that we care about and ponies that we love, and it just...doesn't care. It steals them away from us whenever it wants."

Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle exchanged perplexed expressions.

"Umm, did somethin' happen, Scootaloo?" asked Apple Bloom.

"I can't tell you about it," Scootaloo replied with a sigh. "Not because I don't want to, but because I promised that I wouldn't tell anypony."

The three fillies stared at each other in silence.

"Anyway, I'm gonna go," said Scootaloo as the silence began to become uncomfortable. "I'll see you guys tomorrow. Tell Twilight that it'll just be you two for now until I find something else I want to try."

She swooped out of the clubhouse hastily before her friends could ask any other questions.

Scootaloo's thoughts were heavily occupied as she set a course for Rainbow Dash's cloud-based home. Half of those thoughts were fixated on Rainbow Dash. She had hardly been able to stop thinking about her since they parted ways on Sunday evening. She wondered whether nor not Rainbow was still trying to deny her feelings, still refusing to acknowledge that his death would have an affect on her. Surely she had told her friends by now and they would have done their part to console her, assuming that she was in need of being consoled, yet Scootaloo was still curious if she now felt any differently about his passing.

The other half of her thoughts continuously mulled over her new perception of death—a few of such thoughts had just been shared with her two best friends. Every living thing now seemed to her like a clock ticking in reverse, all the way down to the final moments of life. Scootaloo was not unfamiliar with the concept of death, but never before had it seemed so cruel, so malevolent. That Rainbow Dash could receive such horrid news when she had instead been expecting great news seemed unspeakably cruel. As hard as it was to swallow, life itself now seemed a little less meaningful.

After several minutes of walking, Scootaloo found herself standing underneath the cloud-crafted mansion that was Rainbow Dash's home.

"Rainbow Dash!" she called out. After a few moments, the wind blew, carrying nothing but silence with it.

She called out three more times. There was still no response, and no indication that she was even home. Scootaloo grunted irritably at the inconvenience of Rainbow's home being several feet above the reach of any non-pegasus, or in her case, any pegasus that could not yet fly.

Unsure of what else to do, Scootaloo decided to seek out Rainbow's friends, and at about five minutes away, Fluttershy was the one who lived closest.

She arrived quickly at Fluttershy's cottage and knocked on the door. Fluttershy opened the door after a few moments, and a pair of soaking wet chipmunks scurried out almost instantly, dashing past Scootaloo's legs.

"Mr. and Mrs. Tinseltail, come back!" Fluttershy called after them. "You haven't finished your bath yet!"

The chipmunks refused to turn around and continued to run until they finally ducked into the safety of a small burrow in the ground. Fluttershy sighed.

"Hey, Fluttershy," said Scootaloo, mildly amused by the scene. "Uh...sorry about that."

Fluttershy shook her head. "It wasn't your fault. I guess there isn't much point in bathing an animal that lives underground, is there?"

Scootaloo shrugged. "I guess not."

Fluttershy sighed with acceptance. "Anyway, what can I do for you, Scootaloo?"

"Um, have you seen Rainbow Dash today?" Scootaloo asked.

Fluttershy shook her head. "Not today. I saw her yesterday, though."

"Oh. Would you happen to know if she's home or not?"

Fluttershy shook her head again. "Are you looking for her?"

"Yeah. I wanted to see how she's doing," answered Scootaloo.

"Oh. She's doing much better now," said Fluttershy. "We had a nice talk yesterday."

"So she told you, then? About her dad?"

Fluttershy titled her head. "I wasn't aware that you knew about that. But then again, you two have grown pretty close."

"Yeah. I was actually there when she got the news," said Scootaloo.

"Well, don't worry," said Fluttershy. "I think she's feeling much better about seeing him again."

Scootaloo blinked. "What...?"

"They're going to be able to rebuild their relationship now. She doesn't think so, but I know they will," said Fluttershy.

Scootaloo looked dumbfounded. "What...what are you talking abo—? I mean....what did the two of you talk about yesterday?"

"Well, she was having doubts about getting into the Wonderbolts," replied Fluttershy. "And she also told me that she was nervous about seeing her dad again because she wasn't sure how he would react."

Scootaloo lowered her head and sighed. "Oh..."

"Is something wrong?" asked Fluttershy.

Scootaloo shook her head. "No, no. I just...well, I thought....err...it's nothing. I'm...glad she's feeling better about it."

"I still think that she should have dropped by his place from time to time," said Fluttershy. "I mean, what if something had happened to him during all those years she was away? That would have been awful."

Scootaloo looked at her for several seconds and nodded.

"Yeah, that would have been really awful. Anyway, I should be going. See you, Fluttershy."

"Goodbye, Scootaloo," Fluttershy replied, closing her door.

Scootaloo slowly turned and walked away from Fluttershy's doorstep, feeling both shocked and deeply disappointed. If Rainbow Dash had not told Fluttershy, her closest friend, then she had not told anyone else. Even worse was that she had chosen to lie about it rather than accept any consolation or support from her friends. Suddenly, Rainbow Dash asking her not to tell anypony about his death made much more sense. It was because she was not planning on telling anypony herself...

Scootaloo turned around and walked back towards the cottage, knowing what she had to do. Without feeling a single ounce of regret, she knocked on Fluttershy's door again.


Rainbow Dash soared above Cloudsdale's residential area once again, after she previously thought that she had left it behind for good. Gripped in her mouth was the photo that had fallen out of the envelope the previous night. It pictured a mare who Rainbow had never seen before, at least not to her knowledge. She was a pegasus with a sand-colored coat and eyes that were a few shades darker. Her mane and tail were deep ocean blue and sunshine yellow blended together, and her cutie mark appeared to be three white lilies that resembled pinwheels. She wore a smile that was comforting enough to make her seem like somepony who could be trusted, even though Rainbow knew nothing about her.

On the back of the picture was a small note that read:

This is Wind Lily. Talk to her about the house. Her address is 146 Cloud Drop Lane.

Once again, it was in her father's writing. Was she a friend of his? If so, that would mean she was most likely aware of his death, bringing the grand total of ponies who knew about it outside of the funeral director and Grimmtock to three. The only reason Rainbow Dash now found herself flying to pay her a visit was because the note said "Talk to her about the house." Rainbow's old house had been a facet on her mind ever since she left it behind, and she had since been wondering what she was going to do with it had her father left it in her ownership. If this mare wanted to take it off her hooves, she would gladly allow her to do so.

Within minutes of searching, she was finally standing outside 146 Cloud Drop Lane, which was only a few blocks away from her old house. It was yet another average one-story home that did not look much different from the hundreds that surrounded it. The number "146" was inscribed on both the mailbox and the door.

Rainbow Dash removed the picture from her mouth and tucked it into her wing-pocket. Unsure of what to expect, she knocked on the door. After full minute passed with no answer, she suddenly regretted coming. If this mare was a friend of her dad's, it was possible that she knew a lot about their relationship, and he would have most likely altered the story to make it seem as though he was utterly blameless for her leaving. The last thing she wanted was to get berated by somepony she didn't even know for never coming back to see him again.

As Rainbow Dash considered flying off, the door was finally answered by the mare in the photo, whose eyes widened upon seeing her.

"Oh, my goodness, look at you!" she exclaimed, wrapping her hooves around Rainbow in an embrace.

"Uhhh...hi," Rainbow said apprehensively after being released. "I really hate to say this, but....I have no idea who you are."

The mare chuckled. "Well, that doesn't surprise me. You were three years old last time I saw you. My name's Wind Lily. Why don't you come in?"

Rainbow stepped through the threshold of the house, now feeling somewhat more comfortable.

"I was just about to sit down to some tea," said Lily. Would you like a cup?"

"Uhhh...sure," said Rainbow, despite not being much of a tea drinker.

They walked into the kitchen and Rainbow Dash took a seat at the table while Wind Lily went to the counter to pour tea into two teacups. Rainbow took a moment to examine every part of the house's interior that was within her view. It seemed a nice enough place, but there was no doubt that her old home was nicer, if just for the fact that it was two stories.

"Well, to start, let me just say that you have my deepest condolences for your loss," she said as she sat down with the cups of tea. "Your father was a great pony."

"Did you really know him?" Rainbow said contemptuously, raising an eyebrow.

Wind Lily went silent for a brief moment, her eyes trailing down at the table.

"I know he was troubled. And I know that you did not always see his best side. But he was still a great pony who deserved to live much longer than he did. Same as your mother."

Rainbow blinked. "You knew her?"

Wind Lily shook her head. "Unfortunately not. Like you, everything I know about her comes from what he told me."

"Okay, this is kinda getting uncomfortable now," said Rainbow Dash. "You clearly know a lot about me, but I still don't know anything about you beyond your name."

Lily chuckled again. "I apologize. Your father hired me as a caretaker for you shortly after your mother passed. After your falling out, we got in touch with each other again."

Rainbow squinted her eyes in thought. "I don't think he ever mentioned you before."

"Well, we weren't really friends back then," said Lily. "I was just somepony he was paying to look after his infant daughter when he had to work."

She took a sip of tea, and Rainbow Dash followed suit. It tasted better than any tea she had in the past, but it still was not about to replace cider as her drink of choice.

"He was troubled even back then," Wind Lily continued. "Your mother's passing really did a number on him."

"Yeah, it did, and he wanted me to be just as miserable as he was," said Rainbow bitterly. "And all he ever did was make me feel like I would never accomplish anything in my life. Like there was no point in even hoping for something, because I would never get it."

Wind Lily sighed. "I know it's not my place to comment on the relationship you two had, but I can at least tell you that he changed after you left."

"Yeah, sure he did," Rainbow said, looking down at her tea. "I guess I was the only thing standing in the way of him actually enjoying life."

"Or perhaps losing his daughter was the kick in the flank he needed to become a better pony?" said Lily.

"Or perhaps he just needed another mare in his life to fill the hole, because I was never enough," retorted Rainbow. "Does it really matter now?"

"You know, when he fell ill and was hospitalized, he opted against letting you know because he thought that you wouldn't care," said Lily. "Was he right?"

Rainbow Dash looked up at her and paused for a moment.

"I think you have that backwards. He's the one who didn't care to let me know."

"Oh, I assure you, he wanted to. He debated it with himself for a while."

"But he chose not to, right?" said Rainbow.

"Evidently," Wind Lily nodded. "Of course, we didn't know at the time how bad his condition was. We didn't know that he was...." She closed her eyes and sighed.

Rainbow Dash felt a sudden discomfort.

"I wasn't there for most of it," Wind Lily continued. "I thought it was just going to be a passing thing. I didn't think that his life was in any danger at all. In fact, I was thinking that he was going to be released soon. I went up there to ask how much longer he would need to stay hospitalized....and that's when they told me that he was gone."

Rainbow Dash broke eye contact with her, staring to the side at an empty frying pan that was sitting on the stove.

"I went to plan the funeral the next day, but I was told that you had already taken care of it," said Lily. "At that point, I really wanted to meet with you. I was actually in the process of tracking you down. And yet, here you are. How is that? You didn't even know who I was before you got here."

Without a word, Rainbow Dash pulled the picture from her wing-pocket and placed it on the table. Wind Lily looked over it front and back, and a puzzled expression appeared on her face.

"Where did you get this?" she asked.

"It was in a letter that he wrote me while he was in the hospital," answered Rainbow Dash.

Wind Lily gasped.

"He must have known....," she whispered, going silent for a brief moment. "Have you read the letter?"

Rainbow shook her head.

"Well, surely you must have at least opened it, then?" said Lily.


"Well, I understand your hesitation to read it. It's his final words to you, after all."

Rainbow Dash nodded slowly.

"Anyway, you didn't answer my question earlier," noted Lily. "Was he right?"

Rainbow Dash sighed. "No. I didn't hate him. I just—I didn't need him in my life anymore....except for one thing."

"Which would be him seeing you in a Wonderbolt uniform, correct?" said Wind Lily.

"Yeah," Rainbow nodded. "And now that dream is as dead as he is."

"I'm sorry about that," said Lily. "How have you been doing since you got the news?"

Rainbow Dash took another sip of tea.

"It's...harder than I thought it would be. I'm trying to get my life back to normal but all I can think about is that dream going up in flames. Now it's even affecting my dream of being a Wonderbolt. I'm in the Reserves now, I've pretty much made it in already, and yet I'm not anywhere near as excited about it as I should be, even though it's the only thing I've ever wanted out of life."

"Well, surely, you cannot expect everything to go back to normal this soon, can you?" said Wind Lily. "You need to give yourself time to grieve and mourn. At least wait until after the funeral."

Rainbow Dash did not reply, her eyes trailing back to the frying pan.

"He missed you," Wind Lily said, breaking through the silence. "He often tried to be very discreet about it, but I could tell. I think he really wanted you back in his life."

"Well, he should have thought of that before pushing me away at every turn," Rainbow said irritably. "He didn't even believe me when I told him I was leaving."

"I know the story," said Lily. "And I don't think you were wrong for wanting to leave. But I am curious about something. Had he lived long enough for you to have realized your dream, what would you have done after you showed up in your Wonderbolt uniform? Would you have still excluded him from your life, or would you have decided to put it behind you and repair the bond that you two once shared?"

Rainbow Dash paused to think.

"I guess I never thought that far," she said after a few moments. "But I suppose that would have been up to him."

"He would have been glad to see you again," said Wind Lily.

Rainbow shrugged. "So you say..."

"So...when is the funeral?" Wind Lily asked after taking another sip of tea.

"This Sunday," Rainbow answered.

"I'd like to attend, of course," said Lily. "If that's okay?"

"Sure. But don't be surprised when you show up to an empty funeral," said Rainbow Dash. "Other than you and me, only one other pony is going."

Wind Lily raised an eyebrow. "Is that so? Well, that's curious."

"What do you mean?" asked Rainbow.

"Well, when I started tracking you down, I learned quite a bit about you, Rainbow Dash," said Lily. "You're one of the ponies who help keep Equestria safe from all those nasty beings who try to take it over, wielding those Elements of....Harmony, was it?"

"Not anymore," said Rainbow. "We had to give them up."

"Oh. Well, perhaps that explains it..."

"Explains what?"

"Those other ponies who also wielded the Elements, they're your friends, right?" asked Lily.

Rainbow nodded. "Yeah. Why?"

"Well, it just strikes me as odd that they wouldn't be attending your father's funeral, if for no other reason than emotional support. I'm just curious as to why that is. I mean, you are still friends with them, right? Or did you all have some sort of falling out and that's the reason why you had to give up those Elements?"

Rainbow Dash took another drink of tea to delay her answer. "Uhhh..."

"Is it perhaps....you haven't told them yet?"

Rainbow looked down, feeling increasingly uncomfortable.

"Is it perhaps....you're not planning on telling them?"

Rainbow sighed. "They really don't need to know. If I tell them, all they're going to do is shower me with their pity, and I don't want it. And I don't need it either."

Wind Lily penetrated her with a hard stare.

"If one of their parents died, you'd want to know about it, wouldn't you?"

"That's different," Rainbow said instantly. "They probably had much better relationships with their parents, and they would actually be overwhelmed with grief if they lost them. I'm doing fine. I'm not grieving or anything like that, so they really don't need to know."

"Are you sure about that?" asked Wind Lily. "Because I'm getting the impression that you're in need of much more help than you're letting on."

"I didn't ask for your opinion," snapped Rainbow Dash. "The truth is, all I'm really upset about is that he didn't live long enough for me to fulfill that dream. It was the last thing I needed him for."

"You say this right after telling me that you would have come back to Cloudsdale if you had known he was hospitalized?" Lily said sternly. "Stop lying to yourself. You loved him, and you're upset that he's gone."

Rainbow said nothing for a moment as anger welled up inside her.

"What do you see me as? Some sad, scared little filly distraught that her parents are dead? A helpless orphan who needs to be coddled like a newborn foal? Well here's a bit of a reality check for you: I've been on my own for years now, and I've been just fine. And I will continue to be just fine. I may have been three the last time you saw me, but I'm not anymore. I've grown up. I'm a part of the Wonderbolts now—I've achieved the very thing that he said I never would. I may be upset that I never got to realize my dream, but I'll get over it eventually. This won't hold me down."

Wind Lily fell silent for a few seconds and then sighed, shaking her head.

"Well, I guess I can't help you after all," she lamented. "And that's because you do not wish to help yourself."

"I didn't come here for your help," said Rainbow. "I came here because I'm supposed to talk to you about my old house."

"Right. Of course," Wind Lily sighed. "I've been trying to move out of this place for a while, but never really had the money to do so. I guess he left his house to me in his will. If you don't want it—"

"I don't," Rainbow interrupted. "It's all yours."

"What about everything inside it? Your father's things?"

"Do whatever you want with them."

Wind Lily grunted with frustration. "So that's it, huh? You don't want anything to remember him by, not even pictures? You just want to go on with your life like he never even existed? Is that right?"

Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes.

"Are you even going to read his letter?" she asked.

"I will....sometime," replied Rainbow Dash.

"Well, I won't get rid of them," said Lily. "I'll keep them stored in a closet, and when you've finally decided that you're actually ready to feel something, you just come right on by and I'll give them to you."

"Fine, whatever," Rainbow shrugged, standing back up.

Their teacups still sitting upon the table half full, Wind Lily walked Rainbow Dash to the front door. She was more than ready to leave—this had been little more than a colossal waste of time, and she wished she had just flown off when she had the chance. Before she stepped back out the open door, Lily touched her shoulder, prompting her to look back.

"Look, you're right," she said. "I don't know you. It's not my place to tell you what you should or shouldn't do, but I beg you, don't do this. Don't keep this from your friends. If they were to ever find out somehow, they may not forgive you for it. They would probably even lose their trust in you."

Lily's eyes brimmed with sincerity, and Rainbow Dash looked forward outside to avoid staring into them. She opened her mouth to say something, but words failed to emerge from it.

"I guess I'll see you at the funeral, then?" asked Wind Lily, after it became clear that she was not going to respond.

"Sure," Rainbow replied without looking at her, and finally left the house.


The sun beat down harshly on Rainbow as she returned home. It was yet another day that was much hotter than it really needed to be. The rain from the previous day brought of sense of rejuvenation over Ponyville, evident by how much brighter everything now looked—how much wider the flowers bloomed, how much more active the animals and insects were. The aftermath of a rainy day always seemed to make the town a bit more lively.

As Rainbow returned home, she opened her door and was taken aback at the sight of Scootaloo sitting on the bottom step of her staircase.

"What are you—? How did you—?"

Scootaloo stood up, shooting her with an irritated glare.

"We need to talk."

Rainbow groaned. "I don't really feel like it right now, Scoot. How did you get up here, anyway?"

"Fluttershy flew me up here," Scootaloo answered. "We had a talk today."

Rainbow blinked. "You did?"

"Yes, I did," said Scootaloo.


"Because I was looking for you. I wanted to see how you were holding up." Scootaloo looked in the direction of the kitchen table, still littered with empty cider bottles. "But I think I have my answer now."

"What did she say?" asked Rainbow.

"She told me that you were doing better after a nice talk you two had yesterday," answered Scootaloo, narrowing her eyes. "A talk that involved you lying to her about your dad."

Rainbow's heart instantly skipped a beat. "Did you....tell her anything?"

Scootaloo went silent.

"Scoot....did you tell her?!"

Scootaloo sighed. "No, I didn't tell her anything. She still thinks your father is alive and well. Happy?"

Rainbow Dash breathed a sigh of relief. "Thank you..."

"Don't thank me," Scootaloo snapped. "I was about a second away from telling her when a thought occurred to me: maybe you just weren't ready to tell your friends yet. Maybe you wanted to give it a little more time? I'm really hoping that's the reason."

Rainbow sighed. "Scoot..."

"You are going to tell them, aren't you?"


"When you asked me not to tell anypony, I didn't think that meant that you were actually going to keep it from your friends."

Rainbow Dash sighed. "Telling them is not going to change anything. I'd just rather not have them smothering me with pity and sorrow that I don't need."

"But they need to know!" cried Scootaloo.

"No, they really don't," retorted Rainbow. "It isn't any of their business."

Scootaloo paused in shock for a brief moment.

"So are you saying that the only reason I know is because I was actually with you when you got the news?"

Rainbow Dash closed her eyes so as to not see Scootaloo's reaction to her next words.

"Yes. If it were up to me....you wouldn't know."

Scootaloo froze, feeling as though a icy snowball had just been tossed at her face. Tears began to pour out of her eyes.

"Why? Why are you doing this to yourself? Why can't you just admit that you're going through a difficult time right now and you need help?!"

"I don't need help," Rainbow Dash said as she turned her head away, not wanting to acknowledge Scootaloo's tears.

"Yes, you do!" said Scootaloo. "I know how hard losing a parent can be, whether you cared for them or not."

"How would you know that?"

"Because my mom left me!" Scootaloo cried as fresh droplets of tears leaked from her eyes.

Rainbow Dash turned her eyes back at her. "What?"

Scootaloo took a deep breath before going on.

"I never knew her, just like you never knew your mom. But the difference between my mom and yours is that mine didn't want anything to do with me. I was nothing to her but a big mistake that she made, so one day shortly after I was born, she just took off and never came back. And I really shouldn't care about her, but she's my mom, and I actually would like to meet her one day if for no other reason than to ask why she left. To ask why she didn't want to be my mother."


No other words managed to escape from Rainbow's mouth. She stood in stunned silence, having never known about any of this. Scootaloo wiped away her tears and glared at her.

"You know what, if this is what you want, then this is what you'll get. As of this moment, I was not here with you on Saturday when you got the news. I won't be checking on you anymore because I have no idea that anything is wrong. I won't be going to the funeral because I have no idea that there is a funeral. As of right now, I know nothing, just how you want it."

Rainbow blinked with surprise. "Are you—?"

"—going to tell your friends? I can't tell them what I don't know, now can I?"

"That wasn't what I was—"

"I'm out of here," Scootaloo said irritably, taking a few steps towards the door.

"Scoot, stop!"

Scootaloo turned, and her glare was fierce enough for Rainbow Dash to take a step back.

"I don't have anything left to say. If this is what it's going to take to make you understand, then fine. You want to push away and lie to the very ponies who want nothing more than to help you? You don't want me to be here for you? Fine, then I won't be."

She turned and left the house, walked off the base and fluttered her wings to slow the fall to the ground. Rainbow Dash stood frozen in place, feeling as though she had just crashed into a thick brick wall after flying at Sonic Rainboom speeds, and then subsequently burst into flames as she tumbled into a bottomless abyss. The invisible chains around her hooves now seemed significantly tighter, and even more impossible to break free from.

With a sigh, she plopped down on the spot as an unmistakable sense of guilt intermixed with regret crept its way through her skin.

Chapter 6 -- Broken

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The moon rose in the night sky just as the sun went down, signifying that Luna was hard at work at her most consistent task of the evening. Twilight and Spike sat upon the balcony of Golden Oaks Library, watching the moon as it finally reached its peak. An empty plate previously containing nachos that had not eaten during the day's Twilight Time sat between them, which they had finished off together as they watch the sunset.

"You think you'll ever do that someday?" Spike asked when the moon was finally in place.

"Do what?"

"Raise the moon...or the sun," said Spike.

Twilight shook her head. "I wouldn't really know how. And besides, it requires a ton of magic that I don't have."

Spike shrugged. "Maybe you will someday?"

"I doubt it, Spike."

They sat in silence for several minutes, staring up into the starry sky. Twilight mentally counted as many constellations as she could see.

"Do you ever miss living in Canterlot?" Spike suddenly asked.

"Sometimes," Twilight answered several seconds later. "It feels like so long ago that we moved here."

"You know, when you became a princess, I actually thought we were going to move back," said Spike.


"I don't know. I thought maybe you would have to go back for princess training, or something like that."

Twilight sighed softly.

"Yeah, I really needed a whole lot of training for making appearances and signing autographs...," she mumbled.


Twilight shook her head. "Nothing. It's nothing."

"When I think about Canterlot now, I remember how much different everything seemed there," said Spike. "Everypony just kinda kept to themselves."

Twilight nodded. "Mhm."

"That includes you, you know?" Spike said harshly.

"I know, Spike," Twilight replied, rolling her eyes. "You don't need to remind me of how I was back then."

Spike shrugged. "Yeah, well, you've come a long way since then. You've earned this."

Twilight did not reply, allowing another brief bout of silence to pass between them.

"By the way, I forgot to tell you, Princess Celestia sent another shipment of books this morning," said Spike. "I put them in the basement. If she's going to keep sending all these books, we're really going to need a new place to live soon. Unless you finally feel like giving some of them up, that is."

Twilight shook her head. "I don't think so."

"Why not?" asked Spike. "I mean, they're just books."

"They're not 'just books'", Twilight said irritably. "They're really important to me."


"Because they remind me of good times. Times like...," she paused, lowering her voice. "....like when I was still Princess Celestia's student..."

Spike looked at her. "You still want to be Princess Celestia's student?"

"Well, it's just...I wasn't expecting this," said Twilight. "Some days I wake up and for a brief moment, I think about the reports or whatever other assignments I have to complete that day. Then I get out of bed and I realize that I don't have any reports or assignments to complete. I don't really have anything to do except read through all these books Princess Celestia keeps sending, none of which have anything to do with being a princess. So it's like the only reason she's sending them is to keep me occupied until I have to fulfill some princess duty, which usually just consists of smiling and waving."

Spike scratched his head, surprised by what he was hearing. "Do you not like being a princess?"

"I didn't say that. I just...I wish I—"

Spike suddenly shot upward and belched, causing a gaseous stream to eject from his mouth until it materialized into a letter. He coughed to clear his throat immediately afterward.

"I'm not really used to that anymore. Princess Celestia doesn't really send as many letters as she used to, so I've kinda stopped expecting it."

"What does it say?" asked Twilight.

Spike grabbed the letter and opened it.

"'My dear Twilight. The Grand Galloping Gala will be coming up soon once again, and though I know that it was an experience you would not like to repeat, I would be honored if you stood by my side as a greeter. Additionally, I would also be honored if you were the one to deliver the closing speech. I'm sure that many of the attendees will be glad to know that someone other than me will be giving it. Of course, your friends may attend again if they so desire. Just let me know and I will send tickets. Sincerely yours, Princess Celestia.'"

Twilight groaned and dropped her head.

"Weren't you greeting ponies last time you were there?" asked Spike.

"Not officially," she answered. "I was just standing next to Celestia, so ponies just started greeting me, and eventually I just started doing it on my own."

Spike looked back at the letter. "Oh, wait, there's more."

Twilight sighed. "What does it say?"

"'P.S. Please let Rainbow Dash know that she has my deepest condolences.'"

Twilight turned her head towards him. "What?"

Spike squinted his eyes at the letter. "Yeah, that's what it says."

"Let me see it," said Twilight, levitating the letter from his hands and holding it in front of her face. "What could that mean?"

Spike scratched his head. "I don't know."

"Well, Princess Celestia does..."

"Should we write her to ask what she's talking about?" asked Spike.

Twilight thought for a moment then shook her head.

"No. She obviously thinks that we already know about it, whatever it is. I don't really think letting her know otherwise would be a good idea."

"Do you think it has something to do with what happened at the party yesterday?" asked Spike. "I mean, Rainbow Dash was kinda vague about what she ran off about."

"You may have a point," Twilight noted. "But I still don't see how Celestia would know about it."

They both went silent, lost in thought.

"Why don't we just ask Rainbow about it tomorrow?" asked Spike.

"We could, but....why do I get the feeling that this is going to end up being a matter similar to when Applejack refused to come home from the rodeo competition and wouldn't tell us why?" replied Twilight.

Spike shrugged. "Maybe it will be."

"Come on, it can't be anything that big, right?"

Spike shrugged again and walked back inside the massive tree. Twilight took another thorough look at the letter and followed after him.


The moon had peaked in the sky several hours ago; it was surely well after midnight by now. Rainbow Dash sat on her bed in darkness, the curtains drawn over the windows to prevent the light from the moon to penetrate her room. No sleep would come this night—there was no point in even trying. She could scarcely think of anything besides the glare Scootaloo had shot at her moments before leaving the house. It was so fierce, so vicious, as if Scootaloo absolutely hated her guts. And perhaps she actually did?

Rainbow Dash had never seen her so angry, and she certainly would not have expected to see such anger directed at her. Scootaloo had been her biggest fan since almost the moment they met. She had idolized her, glorified her, and even once started up a fan club in her name. But now, Rainbow had lost all of that—just as she had lost her father, just as she had lost her dream, just as she seemed to be losing anything she once had a firm grasp on.

"I...I can't do this anymore...," she whispered to herself.

"No, you can't," Fluttershy's voice replied almost instantly.

"Fluttershy?!" Rainbow cried, and rushed to the window to open the curtains.

The moonlight revealed Fluttershy standing a few inches away from her with a warm, comforting smile on her face.

"What are you—?"

"It's okay," Fluttershy interrupted. "I'm here for you, just like I said I'd be. I'm going to help you through this. Everything is going to be okay now."

Rainbow Dash blinked hard, unsure whether this was real or not. "Fluttershy...how are you—?"

Her words died instantly as she was taken aback by Fluttershy's comforting smile transforming into a contemptuous glare.

"There. Now how do you like it when somepony lies to your face?" she asked in a harsh tone.


"It's funny," continued Fluttershy. "There was a time when I didn't believe that there was anything that I would not have done for you. Because you were worth it. Because I owed so much to you. Because you would have never done anything to damage the bond that we shared."

Rainbow gazed at her in confusion. "Fluttershy...I..."

"Don't speak to me," Fluttershy said with ferocity. "I don't want to hear your lies anymore."

Rainbow blinked. "I..."

"You're on your own," said Fluttershy, contempt still heavy in her voice. "But that's how you want it, isn't it? Because you're doing so well on your own, aren't you?"

Rainbow Dash was utterly lost for words, unable to believe that what she was seeing and hearing could possibly be real. She shook her head and struck it with her hoof repeatedly, yet Fluttershy remained standing before her.

"Just look at you," said Fluttershy, shaking her head. "You're so pathetic."

"Very pathetic," said the voice Scootaloo, who then stepped into the moonlight to reveal herself. "I can hardly even stand to look at you. This is the Rainbow Dash that I've been idolizing all these years? What a joke."

Rainbow Dash dropped to the floor, their words now stinging her from the inside out.

"Why....why are you here...?" she asked, feeling tears moisten her eyes.

"They're here to see you crumble," said the voice of Wind Lily, stepping into the room to stand alongside Fluttershy and Scootaloo. "And so am I. I told you not to keep this from your friends. You should have listened to me."

"Get up!" Scootaloo demanded. "Get up before I start thinking even less of you!"

"No...," Rainbow whispered, fighting back her tears.

"Get up!" ordered Fluttershy.

"Leave me alone!" Rainbow shouted as she turned and flew out the window.

Without a single thought as to where she was going, she soared through the night sky, flying with intense speed towards the direction of Sweet Apple Acres. The night did not offer her much visibility, even with the moonlight. Flying fast in the dead of night was not a particularly wise thing to do by any means, yet Rainbow did not care as long as she managed to escape from the harsh and unforgiving words that were piercing through her heart like a knife.

"Nice night for a fly, isn't it?"

Rainbow turned her head to see Scootaloo flying directly beside her. She stopped instantly and hovered on the spot, her jaw dropped wide open.

"See? I'm just as good a flyer as you," Scootaloo said, stopping next to her. "Actually, no..."

In a dazzling blur of orange, Scootaloo zoomed ahead and performed several midair loops, twirls, and spirals with a speed faster than Rainbow Dash had ever seen any pegasus fly before. She circled back around to where Rainbow hovered.

"...I'm a better flyer than you. So why do I even need you to look up to anymore? It's not like you could ever fill the hole that my mom left..."

Rainbow shook her head rapidly and resumed her flight, her eyes tightly shut in the hopes that no longer seeing Scootaloo would make her go away.

"No, no, no, no...you aren't there...," she muttered to herself.

"Oh, I'm here, all right," said Scootaloo's voice. "And you had better watch where you're going."

Scootaloo zipped away as Rainbow opened her eyes to find herself flying directly towards a large hill. Unable to avoid it at her speed, she struck the peak headfirst and rolled over down on the other side, tumbling and tumbling without end until she finally came to a stop at the bottom, lying face up and motionless in the grass. There was no longer any question concerning whether or not this was real—the pain she now felt was certainly not imaginary.

Scootaloo landed by her side and chuckled with malicious satisfaction.

"And here I thought that you were aware of everything while you fly. I guess you're not as good a flyer as you thought, huh?"

Rainbow Dash shook her head slowly, slipping from consciousness. "Stop..."

"I'm off to join the Wonderbolts now," said Scootaloo. "I don't think they'll be needing you anymore. You might as well just stay right where you are."

Scootaloo flew away. Rainbow Dash lacked any energy or strength to pick herself up. Perhaps she had a few broken bones, or even a broken wing. She couldn't be sure—all she knew was that her entire body was sore. Looking up, Rainbow was able to see a cloud floating in front of the moon. She wished that she could summon it down to her, as grass made for a cold and itchy bed, but clouds were softer and lighter than anything in the world...

Fluttershy suddenly walked into her field of vision, smiling menacingly.

"Well, well, if it isn't Rainbow Crash. You sure do live up to that name."

"You're...not there," Rainbow said weakly. "Go...away..."

"Because that's what you want, isn't it?" she said sharply. "Just look at yourself. Look at how broken you are."

Rainbow finally closed her eyes after struggling to keep them open. She could no longer see Fluttershy's contemptuous glare.

"Just stay there," Fluttershy said viciously. "You're not getting any help from me."

Lying utterly still in the cold grass, Rainbow heard Fluttershy's voice no more.


Twilight and Spike awoke early the following morning, searching all over Ponyville for Rainbow Dash after failing to find her at home. There did not appear to be any sign of her anywhere—she was not creating the day's weather, nor could she be found in any of her favorite areas or napping places. Asking Ponyville residents about her whereabouts turned up nothing; not even the weather team had any idea where she was. They ultimately returned to the center of town after searching for her for more than an hour.

"Why don't we just ask our friends if they've seen her?" Spike suggested. "In fact, she might even be with them."

Twilight replied with a sigh. "I wasn't planning on telling them about it until after I talked to her."

"What if they already know about it?" asked Spike.

"I don't think—"

Twilight went silent she noticed Applejack running swiftly in her direction with a grim expression on her face.

"Twilight! There you are!" she called out.

"Applejack? What's wrong?" asked Twilight.

Applejack stopped in front of her and paused for a brief moment to catch her breath.

"It's Rainbow Dash....she's in the hospital!"

Twilight gasped. "What happened?!"

"I'll explain on the way," said Applejack. "Everypony's there already. Let's go!"

After exchanging a concerned look, Spike hopped on Twilight's back and she followed Applejack as she set a course for Ponyville Hospital.

"So what happened?" Spike asked once their running speed reached its peak.

"Big Mac found Rainbow Dash lyin' in the grass in our south field early this mornin'," said Applejack. "She was just lyin' there unconscious."

"Why? Do you know how she got there?" asked Twilight.

"I don't," answered Applejack. "She hasn't regained consciousness yet, at least not since I was there last. But she was found near the bottom of a hill, so we think that she might have crashed into it."

"Oh no...," said Twilight. "How is she doing?"

"She'll be fine, I hope. I haven't been there in over thirty minutes 'cause I was lookin' for you. Where have you been?"

"I was actually out looking for her," answered Twilight.

"What for?"

"Because there's something going on with her, Applejack," said Twilight. "I don't know what it is, but....this can't be a coincidence."

"Whaddya mean?"

Twilight shook her head. "I'll explain when we get there."

They arrived at Ponyville Hospital minutes later, brushing quickly through the reception area and into the ICU. Twilight followed Applejack to room 27 and walked inside. An unconscious Rainbow Dash was lying upon the bed, the top of her head bandaged with an IV connected to her foreleg and an electrocardiograph monitor hanging on the wall behind her, beeping every second. Fluttershy, Rarity, and Pinkie Pie each sat by her bedside, solemn looks adorned upon their faces. Fluttershy took a tissue to her eyes, wiping away the tears that fell.

"How is she? Any change?" asked Applejack.

"No...," answered Rarity. "This is just awful..."

Twilight slowly approached the bed. The last time she had seen Rainbow Dash lying on a hospital bed, she was fully conscious and covered with bandages from injuries that Twilight was well aware did not exist. But this was not like that at all. Rainbow was surely not faking these injuries—she was surely not faking unconsciousness.

"I can't believe this...," she said, as a tear fell from her eye.

"Is she going to be okay?" asked Spike, hopping off Twilight's back to stand beside the bed.

"The d-doctor took some X-rays a little wh-while ago," said Fluttershy in a shaky voice, taking the tissue to another wave of fresh tears. "He'll be able to t-tell us when he finishes looking over them."

"But he said she wasn't in any life-threatenin' condition. I reckon she'll be fine," said Applejack.

No one responded as Rainbow Dash's unconscious body stirred for a brief moment.

Applejack frowned. "I hope she'll be fine..."

The door opened again and the same doctor who treated Rainbow Dash back when she had broken her wing stepped inside.

"Okay, I know much more about her condition," he said, and every conscious eye in the room fell upon him.

"To get the thing you folks are most concerned about out of the way first, her life isn't in danger in any way," he said. "I can say with certainty that she will make it through this."

An enormous wave of relief spread throughout the room. Pinkie Pie cracked a smile, and Fluttershy closed her eyes, muttering "thank goodness" under her breath.

"Now for the more concerning news," said the doctor, and the relief died almost instantly. "She has suffered some head trauma. Not much, but she has suffered some. As of this moment, she is in a coma. It may not last very long, but I cannot say for certain. I can't give a proper prognosis until we see how she responds to our treatment. She's breathing on her own, so that's obviously a positive sign. We'll need to monitor her brain activity every hour, but assuming she responds well, I don't see this lasting very long."

The six friends exchanged ambiguous looks, unsure exactly of how they felt about the news. Fluttershy quickly wiped away new tears.

"She has suffered other injuries, but she does not appear to have any broken bones," the doctor continued. "Needless to say, she was very lucky. This could have been a lot worse."

"Thank Celestia...," said Rarity.

"Will she suffer any....permanent damage from this?" asked Twilight, fearfully.

The doctor paused for a moment.

"At the most, she'll probably forget everything that happened in the last few hours leading up to her injuries, but nothing really suggests that she'll suffer any permanent or long-lasting damage. As I said, she was very lucky."

Twilight smiled with relief. "That's good..."

"I suppose I'll leave you folks alone for now. We'll be back to monitor her brain activity shortly," he said, and turned to leave the room.

"See? I told ya she was gonna be okay," said Applejack after the door closed again. "Feelin' better, Fluttershy?"

Fluttershy nodded, and tears no longer emerged from her eyes.

"But since she'll lose her memory of the last few hours, we're probably not going to know how this happened," said Twilight, lamentably. "When exactly did Big Mac find her, Applejack?"

"It must've been around six thirty this mornin'," Applejack answered. "He said that he found her near the south orchard, just lyin' in the grass at the bottom of a hill. She might have been there for several hours. Maybe even all night long."

"She may not lose all of her memory, Twilight," said Rarity. "She may be able to tell us something."

"I hope so," said Twilight.

Pinkie Pie walked over to the comatose Rainbow Dash and gently caressed her hoof.

"Poor Rainbow..."

The room went silent as everyone turned their attention towards Pinkie, unsure of what to say to her. Her supremely positive and fun-loving mind seemed the least capable to cope with a situation like this.

"Oh, Twilight, what were you gonna say earlier? About how this couldn't be a coincidence?" asked Applejack.

Twilight sighed, suddenly unwilling to share her information for fear of worsening the mood. She glanced at Spike, who nodded, urging her on.

"I got a letter from Princess Celestia last night. The postscript read, 'Please let Rainbow Dash know that she has my deepest condolences.' Would any of you happen to know what she meant by that?"

Twilight glanced at Fluttershy who returned a perplexed look. Everyone else responded similarly, either by shrugging or shaking their heads.

"I didn't think so. But this can't be a coincidence," Twilight continued. "There must be something going on with her. First the party, then the letter, and now this? Before Applejack told me that Rainbow was in the hospital, I was actually trying to find her to ask about it. And now that's going to have to wait."

"Why not just write to Princess Celestia and ask what she meant?" suggested Rarity.

"That just wouldn't feel right," said Twilight. "She obviously thinks that we already know about all about it, so it would just feel uncomfortable to ask. Besides, I would rather hear it from Rainbow Dash anyway."

Fluttershy suddenly gasped, jolting upward onto her hooves.

"Oh no...," she whispered.

Twilight blinked. "Fluttershy?"

"I...I have to go for a little while," said Fluttershy. "I think I may know what she meant."

"What are you thinkin' it is?" asked Applejack.

"I...don't want to say," said Fluttershy. "I actually hope I'm wrong about this..."

"Where are you going?" asked Spike.

"Cloudsdale," Fluttershy answered. "I'll be back as soon as I can."

"Should I come with you?" asked Twilight, surprised by Fluttershy's sudden motivation.

Fluttershy shook her head. "No. I need to do this myself."

Without another word, she hurried out of the room, leaving the others to share the same ambiguous looks as before. Pinkie Pie looked back down at Rainbow Dash as tears gradually permeated from her eyes. She leaned down and kissed her hoof.

"Please wake up, Rainbow. Please...."


Thirty minutes passed as everyone in the room anxiously awaited Fluttershy's return. The room was utterly silent, and each subtle motion that Rainbow Dash's unconscious body made turned every head in her direction, offering the slightest bit of hope that she was finally awakening from her deep sleep. Yet there still remained no sign that it was going to happen anytime soon. Pinkie Pie remained closest to her side, continuing to stroke her hoof, with a solitary tear falling from her eye every so often. Twilight, Applejack, and Rarity were each reminded of when Pinkie had remained close to her mailbox, expecting a letter from Rainbow Dash after she had left for the Wonderbolt Academy, and became more and more convinced that Rainbow had forgotten all about her with every minute that passed without its arrival. They surely expected that Pinkie would not be leaving Rainbow's side until she eventually woke up, whenever that would be...

"Oh dear, I hope Rainbow Dash won't have to cancel her Wonderbolts debut on Saturday," Rarity said suddenly.

"Golly, I didn't even think about that," said Applejack. "I can't imagine she'll be in well enough shape to fly in the next three days. Shoot, we don't even know if she'll be awake by then."

"I'm sure they'll just postpone it to a later date if need be," noted Twilight. "It'd just be a shame if Rainbow had to wait even longer to finally fulfill her dream."

"What if she doesn't wake up for a super long time?" asked Pinkie, her voice more somber than anyone had ever heard it before.

"That's not going to happen, Pinkie," Twilight reassured her. Pinkie did not respond, and another teardrop loosed itself from her eye.

Rarity sighed. "Could this possibly get any worse?"

The door suddenly opened again and in walked Fluttershy, her eyes downcast with a newspaper dubbed The Daily Cloud News gripped in her wing.

"Uhh...Fluttershy?" said Applejack.

Fluttershy released the newspaper from her wing and closed her eyes, as though too ashamed or embarrassed to look at her friends.

"I know. I know what Celestia meant..."

"What is it?" asked Twilight.

Without saying a word, Fluttershy dropped the newspaper to the floor, opening it to the obituary section.

"Look...," she said, pointing at a single name.

Twilight magically lifted the paper from the floor, and everyone gathered around to see the name Fluttershy pointed at.

"Rainbow Blaze...," Twilight read, her eyes widening.

"That's Rainbow Dash's father," said Fluttershy. "He...he died."

"Oh, goodness!" Rarity said, instantly placing her hoof over her mouth.

"I...I don't believe it...," said Applejack, her ears lowering.

"Died...?" said Pinkie, tears streaming quickly down her cheeks. "He's gone...forever?"

Everyone looked back at Rainbow Dash with pity-filled stares. Lying motionless on the bed, she suddenly appeared to be solemn and grief-stricken, as though the blank expression on her face was now showing intense sorrow and grief where it had previously been unreadable.

Twilight turned back to the newspaper and continued reading through the obituary.

"It says here that he....died this past Friday."

"Yeah...," Fluttershy said, nodding.

"This past Friday?!" said Rarity, almost incredulously. "Surely, she must have known!"

Fluttershy nodded again.

"And yet she didn't say anythin'....," noted Applejack.

"No," said Twilight with a shake of her head, dropping the newspaper. "Of course she wouldn't say anything..."

Fluttershy lowered her head, tears dripping down her face again. "She wouldn't even tell me."

"Was this what you thought it was, Fluttershy?" asked Spike.

Fluttershy nodded, wiping the tears away.

"The subject of her father had been coming up lately, and I just thought that maybe something terrible had happened to him. I went to Rainbow Dash's old house where he lived and nopony was there. I picked up the current newspaper to take a look at the obituaries....and there he was."

"What do you mean 'the subject of her father had been coming up lately?'" asked Twilight.

Fluttershy took a deep breath and shook her head.

"I don't know if I should tell you about it. It's always been a very personal matter for her."

"Please, Fluttershy," urged Twilight. "There's already so much that we don't know right now; don't keep another thing from us. Whatever it is, we won't tell her that we know about it."

"Umm...well...alright, fine," Fluttershy said, finishing with a sigh. "You'll probably know about it soon anyway. Rainbow Dash wasn't very close to her dad. She always wanted to be a Wonderbolt, but he never believed that she would ever become one, and that really put a strain on their relationship. She eventually left home, telling him that the next time he would see her, she would be wearing a Wonderbolt uniform. She kept to that vow. She hasn't seen him in five years, never once even paying him a visit, not for anything."

Every eye was fixed on Fluttershy, each one widened with shock. It suddenly made sense why Rainbow Dash had always been so reluctant to talk about her family.

"My, that sounds awful," commented Rarity. Fluttershy nodded.

"I tried to tell her that was a mistake and that she ought to pay him a visit every now and then, but I never could get through to her. After everything she's told me, I can't blame her for leaving, but I still thought that she should have at least checked in on him from time to time. But she just...wouldn't."

"Wait a minute," said Twilight. "Are you saying that she was only going to visit him again when she was wearing a Wonderbolt uniform...which was going to happen this Saturday?"

"Yes," answered Fluttershy. "The other day when I talked Rainbow after she ran off, we got into a discussion about her dad. She told me that she was worried about seeing him again, and I said that it was a good thing that they would be able to rebuild their relationship after so many years apart. But...she knew. He was gone, and she knew it. She knew he was gone, and she chose not to tell me."

Fluttershy hung her head and closed her eyes. "She....she lied to me..."

"She lied to all of us," replied Applejack, looking downward bitterly.

The door to the room opened again and a worried Scootaloo stepped inside, quickly rushing towards the bed.

"I just heard from Apple Bloom," she said instantly. "How is she? Is she going to be okay?"

"She'll be fine," said Twilight reassuringly. "She'll be just fine."

Scootaloo cracked a smile that faded almost immediately.

"Has she woken up yet?"

"She's in a coma," said Fluttershy. "But it won't last long...we hope."

"How did this happen?" Scootaloo asked, looking down mournfully.

"We don't know, darling," said Rarity. "We'll have to wait until she wakes up."

"If she even remembers, that is," added Applejack.

Scootaloo suddenly shook her head rapidly, as though trying to reject some feeling from inside her.

"Okay, this has gone on far enough. I can't keep it from you guys anymore."

"What are you talking about?" asked Twilight.

Scootaloo let out a sigh. "Rainbow Dash...her dad died a few days ago."

"We know," said Applejack.

Scootaloo looked up at her. "You do?"

"We just found out," said Twilight. "But how did you know?"

"I....I was with her when she got the news. She told me not to tell anypony, and I didn't. But I didn't know that she wasn't going to tell you guys."

"So that's what you meant yesterday," Fluttershy realized. "When you said you were with her when she got the news, I thought you were referring to her Wonderbolt letter."

"I was about tell you, but I just couldn't do it," Scootaloo said to her. "I was thinking that maybe she just wasn't ready to tell you guys yet. But I was wrong. She was never planning on telling any of you. In fact, she told me right to my face that the only reason I knew was because I had been there."

"Why, that's the most—!" cried an indignant Applejack, suddenly stopping herself. Rarity let out an exasperated huff while Pinkie and Fluttershy looked over at Rainbow Dash with a mixture of disbelief and sorrow.

"Scootaloo, I want you to tell us how Rainbow Dash has been these last few days," said Twilight. "This is very important."

Scootaloo briefly rubbed her chin in thought. "Uhh...well....she's been kind of passive about the whole thing. She acts like his death hasn't affected her at all when I know it has."

"How do you know it's affected her?" Twilight immediately asked.

"Well, she denies it so much that it's like she's purposefully trying not to let herself feel," answered Scootaloo. "Yesterday, I saw a bunch of empty apple cider bottles scattered on her kitchen table. She must have drank through all of them at once. And with cider season a long way away, that didn't strike me as something she would normally do—not unless she was trying to ease her pain, that is."

"Yes," said Fluttershy with a nod. "She told me about that."

"Has she made any...disturbing statements?" asked Twilight. "Anything that would have made you worried for her well-being?"

"What are you gettin' at, Twilight?" Applejack asked before Scootaloo could respond.

Twilight sighed. "Like I said, this can't be a coincidence. It just can't be."

"What are you tryin' to say?" questioned Applejack.

Twilight looked hard at her for several brief seconds.

Rarity gasped. "Twilight...you aren't suggesting that Rainbow Dash did this to herself on purpose, are you?"

Twilight looked down, signifying her answer.

"No!" Fluttershy cried at once. "She wouldn't do that! She would never do that!"

"Well before today, I never would have thought that Rainbow Dash would have hidden something this big from us," said Twilight. "But I was wrong, wasn't I? In fact, I think we all were."

"But Twilight, this is Rainbow Dash we're talking about!" cried Rarity. "I don't want to think that she would ever even consider..."

"I don't want to think so, either," said Twilight. "I would certainly hope that she would never consider it. But right now, I'm just not so sure if I really know Rainbow Dash as well as I thought. I'm just saying that...it's a possibility."

Fluttershy began to weep and Rarity wrapped a hoof around her, eventually breaking down into tears herself. Scootaloo closed her eyes and turned her head away while Applejack glared fiercely at the floor. Pinkie now looked more somber than ever before, her eyes glued to Rainbow Dash as though fearful that she would slip away if somepony was not watching her.

"I...I could be wrong," Twilight said, sorry that she had brought the notion up. "I mean, we all jumped to the conclusion that Rainbow had lost her Reserves membership after she ran away from the party? I could just be jumping to conclusions again..."

This did nothing to change the mood in the room, as the thought had already sunk in far too deep. Twilight plopped herself down, not saying a single word more.

Pinkie watched as Rainbow Dash stirred slightly in her sleep.

Chapter 7 -- Dive

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Twilight looked up at the clock on the wall just as it ticked half past nine. The day had passed by in slow motion. It could have easily been days since she first heard that Rainbow Dash was in the hospital, and she'd have been shocked to realize that it had only happened that morning. Everyone remained in Room 27, still awaiting any indication that Rainbow was going to wake up soon, particularly after the doctor had begun treatment on her. Yet aside from a few sharp jolts in movement which happened sporadically throughout the day, she remained wholly unconscious, still without any sign of when she would awaken again. The idea that Rainbow had attempted suicide still hung ominously in the room's atmosphere, even though it had not been discussed much since it was first brought up. Scootaloo sat in the far corner of the room, looking almost as distraught as Pinkie Pie. She had barely said a word since Twilight informed them about her suspicions that Rainbow's injuries were of her own doing.

Except for the purpose of eating meals generously provided by the hospital in the cafeteria, no one had left the room during the day. Pinkie and Scootaloo had not left at all, both flatly refusing to eat, and Fluttershy only picked at her food somberly with only tiny portions entering her mouth. Only a few additional visitors stopped by, including Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle, some members of the Ponyville Weather Team, and even Mayor Mare. Upon seeing Rainbow Dash, each visitor instinctively asked how she ended up in a coma, and Twilight, Rarity, and Applejack were constantly forced to repeat that they did not have any answers and would not have them until she eventually woke up. But much to their dismay, the doctor informed them that a patient awaking from a coma should not be forced to answer questions upon waking, and that they would need to give Rainbow Dash at least few hours (but preferably a day) to collect herself again before doing so.

The room had long fallen into an uncomfortable silence as everyone continued to wait for either Rainbow Dash regaining consciousness, or the doctor coming back in to deliver a new update on her condition—whichever would come first. After a while, the constant beeping of the electrocardiograph stung their ears every other second until it eventually seemed to be picking irritatingly at their brains, making them all wish that Twilight had some kind of useful sound-muffling spell in her repertoire. Fatigue had long begun to set in—eyelids were droopy and a mouth opened to yawn every few minutes.

"Have I ever told you guys about the time Rainbow Dash was suspended from Flight Camp for sticking up for me?" asked Fluttershy, interrupting the silence that had lasted for nearly an hour.

Every head turned in her direction except for Scootaloo's, which remained hung downwards so that she was staring directly at her reflection in the polished floor.

"I...don't believe so," noted Rarity. Everyone else stared at Fluttershy with intrigue, eager to hear the story if for no other reason than to drown out the beeping—not that Fluttershy's voice was actually capable of drowning anything out.

"When Rainbow Dash and I met at Flight Camp, I was no one to her," she began. "It was like we were on the opposite ends of a staircase. She was one of the best flyers in camp, and I was one of the weakest. She was popular and well-liked while I was often teased and ridiculed. Many of the same fillies who admired her also teased me. She could have chosen to join in right along with them, but she didn't. Instead, she defended me, telling them to leave me alone. Knowing that there was somepony willing to stand by my side is what got me through Flight Camp. We became friends, and she eventually told me that if they didn't stop harassing me, she was going to take matters into her own hooves. At first I thought that meant that she was going to actually fight with them, and I didn't want that. Not only because I didn't want anypony getting hurt over me, but because I knew that if Rainbow did something like that, she would be kicked out of camp—and I needed her.

"Over the next few days, I tried my best not to react to anypony teasing me. I thought that maybe if I acted like they didn't bother me anymore, Rainbow Dash would forget about it. But that wasn't easy, especially since by that time, they had begun to tease me over my cutie mark because I had received it on the ground. But one day when their teasing got worse, Rainbow Dash told me that she was going to do something about it. I wanted to tell her not to, but we hadn't known each other for very long, and I still felt a bit uncomfortable talking to her. I was also worried that if I told her not to, she would take it to mean that I didn't want her defending me anymore, and she would stop. So I didn't say anything, and just waited for what would happen next. The next day, we had to do lap exercises, which were a pain for me since I would always be last to finish and the entire camp would be laughing at how slow I was. But on that day, the camp had something else to laugh at. As I circled around to finish my third lap out of ten, I noticed that two of the fillies who tormented me every day were screaming, running around, flying in circles, and trying to swallow chunks of clouds. The entire camp was amused by it, and Rainbow Dash stood grinning with a sense of accomplishment, and I knew at once that whatever had happened to them, it was something that she did.

"As it turned out, once she had finished her own laps—and as usual, she was the first one finished—she took their water bottles and flew over to the Weather Factory to fill them up with rainbow. I could hardly believe it when she told me. I was amazed that she was willing to do that for somepony she barely knew. Camp was cancelled for the rest of the day after that, and the next day, the instructor told us that Rainbow Dash had been suspended. I never told her, but though I appreciated what she did, I felt really guilty. I didn't think that she deserved to be suspended for my sake. But after that, I knew that Rainbow Dash and I would be friends for a long time."

Fluttershy paused and took a deep breath. Everyone appeared to be transfixed by her story, but Scootaloo seemed to remain closed off inside her own private bubble, continuing to stare down as though she had not heard a word.

"Rainbow Dash is my best friend, and I know almost everything about her. I think we all know how stubbornly proud she can be, and sometimes it does go against her better judgment. Was it not from this very hospital that she tried to steal a Daring Do book because she was too proud to ask to borrow a copy from you, Twilight? We've all seen it before. This is a situation that she's completely unfamiliar with and one that she probably doesn't know how to deal with. Her relationship with her father had always been very personal, and I'm sure there are things she never even told me about. But whatever happened to her last night, whatever it was that got her here, I know in my heart that she did not deliberately do this to herself. I needed time to think about it for a while—I needed time to question if I truly knew her well enough to say this with certainty. But I am now completely sure that this was an accident, and that we have nothing to worry about."

Scootaloo's bubble seemed to have burst, as she finally looked up at Fluttershy after she closed her last sentence. The room went silent for several moments as everyone reflected on her words.

"I really hope yer right...," said Applejack.

"So do I...," added Twilight.

"That was quite a story, Fluttershy" acknowledged Rarity. "But I'm curious about something. Did those awful fillies finally stop teasing you after that?"

As if on cue, everyone else who had lingering questions unanswered by the story suddenly began to ask them, one after another. Scootaloo remained silent, already knowing the answer to most of them. Her mind remained fixed on Fluttershy's closing sentence, hoping upon anything and everything that it was true. When all questions had been answered, silence began to fill the room once again.

Applejack yawned. "Well, Ima bit plum tuckered, so I think I'm gonna call it a night."

"Me as well," replied Rarity. "It has gotten quite late."

After a few words of farewell, Applejack and Rarity exited the room, followed shortly by Twilight and Spike, who was already drifting asleep on her back. Pinkie remained by Rainbow's side, still unwilling to move. As Fluttershy turned to leave the room herself, her eyes fell upon Scootaloo still sitting in the corner, looking down at the floor once again, appearing as though she wanted to go unnoticed.


The young filly looked up. "Hm?"

"Aren't you going home, too?" asked Fluttershy.

Scootaloo shook her head, looking down again. "I don't feel like it right now."

"I know how you feel, but Rainbow Dash is going to be fine," Fluttershy said, moving closer to her. "There's nothing to worry about."

Much to Fluttershy's surprise, Scootaloo began to tremble, which was followed shortly by a flood of tears raining down her cheeks.

"It's my fault. It's all my fault..."

Stunned and frozen in place, Fluttershy instinctively placed a hoof around her. "It's not your fault, Scootaloo. Why would you think—"

"Yes, it is!" Scootaloo cried, nodding forcefully. "If I had just told you about her dad yesterday like I was going to, this might not have happened. It's because of me. It's because of me that you almost lost your best friend. I'm sorry! I'm so, so sorry!"

Fluttershy said nothing for a moment, taken by surprise at the young filly's distress. "I don't think that's true, Scootaloo. We don't know how this happened."

"Why? Why do we even bother living if this is what it comes down to?" Scootaloo asked through sobs. "It's...it's like we only live to see the ponies we love die, until the day death finally comes for us..."

"Now, stop that. That's a horrible way to think," scolded Fluttershy. "Rainbow Dash is going to be fine. We could have lost her, but we didn't, and that's something that we should be thankful for. We don't live to see the ponies we love die, we live to enjoy the time that we have with them. And when their time does come, we mourn them, and then we find a way to move on because that's what they would want us to do. Rainbow is going to be fine, and you need to realize how much of a blessing that is."

Scootaloo hung her head in sorrow, taking Fluttershy's words to heart.

"Fluttershy...are you absolutely sure that Rainbow Dash didn't...do this to herself?" she asked, wiping away the tears from her eyes and cheeks.

Fluttershy nodded. "Yes. I'm absolutely sure."

Scootaloo let out a sigh, looking unconvinced.

"Don't worry," Fluttershy said with a smile. "I know Rainbow Dash will be very happy to see you when she wakes up."

Scootaloo said nothing, turning her head to look at Rainbow Dash on the bed. Pinkie rested her ear on Rainbow's torso, listening for her heart as though the electrocardiograph's beeps were not enough to prove that it was still beating.

"Come on, I'll walk you home," said Fluttershy.

With another sigh, Scootaloo hesitantly followed Fluttershy out of the room.


"Fluttershy, pal, this won't cut it
I need a pet to keep up with me
Something awesome, something flying
With coolness that defies—"

Rainbow Dash shivered suddenly as the wind blew rain directly into her face. Her soaking wet mane and tail hung down sloppily, and the longer she walked, the more desperately she wished that she could shake them dry. The wet grass was cold beneath her hooves as she walked on it, and it was the only thing in sight for miles in any direction—no matter which way she faced, there was nothing but an empty horizon of green. A light, gray sky engulfed the entirety of her surroundings, and heavy raindrops poured relentlessly out of it.

"Why am I singing that stupid song, anyway?" she asked herself, irritated that she had decided to pass the time singing, particularly with a duet that did not sound anywhere near as good when sung as a solo.

Rainbow Dash did not have the slightest clue of where she was or how she had gotten there, nor did she have any idea of where she was going. Her only objective in mind was to find her way back home, or to at least find another pony or otherwise sentient being who could point her in the right direction. Every hoofstep she took left a permanent impression in the grass, and her trail could have been followed back for what seemed like miles. Her hooves were becoming sore, and though she deeply wished to fly, her wings remained closed. She vaguely remembered something terrible happening to her the last time she took to the sky, and the memory now kept her grounded like an ominous premonition hanging over her head.

For the next twenty or so minutes, she walked without speaking another word, continuing to ignore the cold and the rain as best she could. The wind blew against her, and her eyes were soaked with raindrops once again. Sighing with annoyance, Rainbow paused for a moment to wipe them then continued on, resigning herself to close her eyes whenever the wind picked up. In her silence, her thoughts once again began to question how she got there, what had happened that made her afraid to fly....and whether or not this was even real.

These questions had been penetrating her thoughts for hours, yet she was no closer to receiving any answers for them. The last thing she knew she remembered was staring into Fluttershy's scowling face as she lay in the grass. She struggled to remember why Fluttershy was scowling, and why she had been lying in the grass at all, but no matter how hard she thought about it, it was all memories that she did not seem to be able to recover—memories that were probably lost forever.

Frustrated by her inability to remember anything for the hundredth time, Rainbow Dash stopped walking and plopped herself down in the grass. In that moment, she suddenly did not believe that anything lay beyond the grass—it simply stretched on infinitely, and no matter how long she walked, she would never find anything or anyone beyond it. For the first time since finding herself in this place, she felt entirely alone, so much so that she would have been willing to believe that she was the last pony in the world. The light, gray sky now seemed to grow even darker and and the wind now began to blow more frequently.

"What am I doing here?" she asked herself, striking her head with her hoof multiple times. "Come on, think! How did I get here? What happened to me?"

None of her questions received answers, and striking her head only accomplished giving herself a headache. The rain continuously striking her head now began to irritate her, and she covered her head with her forelegs.

"I...I have to—"

Rainbow glimpsed briefly to her right and could faintly see a single, solitary tree protruding from the grass in the distance. Without hesitation, she hurried over to it, hoping that it would not disappear as she got closer like a mirage in the desert. As she approached, she noticed that a white and red checkered quilt lay directly under the tree, flowing gently in the wind. It appeared to be a picnic quilt, but there was no food anywhere to be found on it.

Finally, Rainbow reached the tree and curled herself up on the quilt. The tree did not offer too much protection from the rain, but it was still a relief to finally not feel the raindrops splattering endlessly upon her head. However, the sound of the raindrops striking the leaves was so noisy that she wanted to cover her ears. Intent to muffle the sound, she ultimately found herself singing once again, this time a song far more familiar to her and far more appropriate for her current situation:

"So many clouds scattered across the sky
The softest of pillows lying way up high
Twisted and formed to the whims of a dream
Like fortresses of the heavens or castles of ice cream
Whiter than snow, and lighter than air
Casting shadows everywhere

But today they cry
Today they weep
Today their agony darkens the sky
The sun is gone, the air is cold
Because today they cry

I feel their tears upon my skin
Raining down and down again
The thunder roars a scream of pain
Trembling the wet air through the rain
How I wish to see the sun once more
And the soft, white clouds that I adore

But today they cry
Today they weep
Today their agony darkens the sky
The sun is gone, the air is cold
Because today they cry

If only I knew why
They cry so high
Up, up in the sky
To them I would fly
Just to say "hi"
And that I would try
Till the day I die...

...To feel those soft pillows beneath my head
That I will not feel them cry instead
To hope that tomorrow the sun will shine
And those lovely clouds will again be mine

But today they cry
Today they weep
Today their agony darkens the sky
This dark day brings so much pain
And I'll be shivering in the rain

Because today they cry"

Tears released from Rainbow's eyes as she finished the song. Lying upon the wet quilt, she suddenly felt the eyes of her mother looking down upon her.

"I miss you...," she whispered. "I wish you were still here..."

A strong wind made the quilt flare up, and Rainbow's body was all that kept it from blowing way and disappearing into the vast emptiness, just as any food that had been set upon it before she arrived likely had.

"Can you hold me...?" said Rainbow, feeling both shame and embarrassment at asking such a thing. "Please...?"

Another strong gust of wind served as the only answer to her request. Shivering, Rainbow grabbed an edge of the quilt and pulled it over her body in a somewhat vain attempt to make herself warm, but it was now far too wet to provide any considerable warmth.

"It's so cold," she said weakly. "Please...?"

The sky seemed to grow even darker and the wind and rain seemed to intensify. Rainbow buried her head underneath the blanket and held it as tightly as she could, fearful that she would lose her only protection from the cold. She felt her mother's presence gradually slipping away as her pleads went unanswered.

"I'm scared...," she whispered, tears returning to her eyes. "I'm so scared..."

The quilt only became colder as rain continued to pour down on it, and before long, it no longer provided Rainbow with any warmth at all. The sky now appeared to be so dark that for all she knew, it could have been nighttime. As she shivered and succumbed to the cold, Rainbow Dash finally had an answer for what the empty, grassy field was—or at least for what it represented: a prison. A vast, empty, bar-less prison most likely located within the confines of her own mind. A prison that she was sure she would not allow escape from until she delved deeper inside it...


Rainbow finally let the quilt go, no longer feeling any comfort or warmth from being wrapped in it. It blew away within seconds and quickly disappeared into the darkness and intense rainfall. As it left her, so too did any feeling of her mother's presence, and a sense of loneliness consumed her again. She tightly wrapped her forelegs around herself in an attempt to reduce her shivering, but a great roar of thunder accompanied with a flash of lightning in the distance instantly made her jump up uneasily. The tree now seemed like an unsafe place to rest, as Rainbow assumed that it was probably the only thing around for miles that could possibly attract a bolt of lightning.

Taking a deep breath to brace herself for the struggle against the relentless wind and rain, Rainbow stepped away from her haven and continued onward, placing one hoof upon her forehead so as to shield her eyes from the onslaught of raindrops blowing into her face. The raindrops now came down with enough force and speed that they stung when making contact with her body. The wind was now strong enough that she feared she would be blown away if she even dared to open up her wings. And her pace was slowed considerably as it was now too dark to see anything just inches away from her face.

"I don't know what I'm supposed to do, mom!" Rainbow cried, hoping in vain that calling out to her mother would allow her to feel her presence again and receive a guide through the darkness. But she received no answer.

Her anger and frustration on the rise, Rainbow continued onward, but another flash of lighting stopped her suddenly in her tracks. During the brief second when her surroundings were lit up, she was able to see that the grassy field had unexpectedly changed. In place of grass now lay wilted flowers, each of the same species and small enough that they only rose about six inches from the ground.

Rainbow wondered if this was the answer she was hoping for, but could not comprehend its meaning. Instead, it only made her feel uneasy, as if the wilted flowers were a warning as to what awaited her when she reached the end of the field. With the next flash of lightning, Rainbow Dash was easily able to identify the species of these flowers. Though she was no expert at identifying flowers, she would have recognized this specific one anywhere. They were Birds of Passion, easily identifiable by their two distinct and vibrant petals on the opposite ends of the receptacle which resembled birds' wings. It was often described as "the official flower of Cloudsdale" due to the fact that it only bloomed in very high places, and it was commonly worn in the manes of pegasi during funerals due to its symbolism of freedom and passing on. When wilted, the flower's "wings" appeared to be solemnly closed.

"What does this mean...?" Rainbow whispered to herself, standing in place for several minutes as she tried to think of an answer. But she gave up quickly, now tired of wracking her brain for answers that she knew were not there.

Shivering with fear and cold in equal measure, Rainbow continued to walk, continuing her search for any escape, any shelter from the rain she could possibly find. Every few minutes, the foreleg she was holding above her eyes grew tired, and she frequently switched it for the other. Every step she took was filled with fear—every hoof trembled as it raised from the ground. She scoffed at herself in disgust, ashamed at how terrified she was, ashamed at how much she felt like a little lost filly searching and crying out for her mother. Under normal circumstances, Rainbow would not have wanted anyone to see her in this state, but in that moment, she desperately longed for someone's presence...

"I don't know what I'm supposed to do!" she shouted again into the nothingness. "Please, show me what to do so I can get out of this dumb place!!!"

Again, she did not receive any response. The wind and rain refused to relent, and the darkness did not clear away. Rainbow gritted her teeth in hostile frustration.

"Okay, you know what? Fine!"

Rainbow Dash finally spread her wings and leapt into the sky, disregarding the unpleasant premonition that kept her grounded as she no longer felt any safer walking than she did flying. She picked up speed at once, and the raindrops stung her face so painfully that she covered it entirely with both forelegs, effectively cutting off her vision in the process—not that she would have been able to see anything in front of her anyway. She was now more determined than ever to break out of this prison and wake up again.

As if in response to her act of defiance, the wind blew considerably harder—so hard that Rainbow felt as though she was suddenly caught in the grip of a tornado. At once, she was lifted higher into the sky against her will, her wings and legs flailing about wildly to regain balance, but it was impossible. Screaming in fear, she twisted and spun around uncontrollably in the air until finally crashing down to the earth....and straight into mud. The Birds of Passion flowers were now gone, and for the second time, the ground had changed.

"What?! What do I have to do?! WHY CAN'T I LEAVE?!!!" Rainbow screamed, picking herself back up.

She angrily wiped the mud from her face and body, feeling as though she was cruelly being taunted—as though someone, somewhere was laughing their flank off at her as she struggled to clean herself up. With that thought in mind, just as suddenly and unexpectedly as she felt her mother's presence earlier, she now felt her father's eyes hovering above in the sky, peering down at her with an unmistakable sense of satisfaction. Unsurprisingly, his presence did not make Rainbow feel as warm as her mother's had...

"Go away...," Rainbow Dash said softly, using the rain to wash the mud from her mane and tail. "I know you're not going to help me. Just have your laugh and go away..."

As soon the wind returned to its previous speed, Rainbow Dash resumed walking, her hooves disappearing into the muddy ground with every step she took. The mud was highly uncomfortable to walk through, but after what had just happened, she was once again fearful to open her wings, even to hover a few feet off the ground. Rainbow Blaze seemed to followed her, coming down closer and closer until eventually Rainbow Dash thought that if she were to look to her left, she would see him walking alongside her. She sighed with frustration, still ashamed of how frightened and helpless she felt. In spite of how much she wished to reject her father's presence, feeling him beside her somehow made her less afraid, even though she knew that he was not really there.

Rainbow no longer bothered to cover her eyes; instead she simply walked with her eyes closed and her head lowered as the rain blew against her face. After walking for a long stretch of time, the length of which she could not even begin to specify, the rain suddenly ceased pouring down on her with great force. She looked up at once, hopeful that her fortunes were finally changing and the rain was beginning to stop.

"Mom!" Rainbow called, suddenly feeling her mother's presence again, this time much closer and warmer than it was before. The rain was not stopping—instead, it appeared as though she was simply being protected from it...

Rainbow Dash's heart skipped several beats as her mother and father suddenly materialized to her left and right sides, respectively. They were both entirely translucent as if they were ghosts, yet they were illuminated brightly so that they cast light upon the darkness and rain. They did not speak, and instead only smiled warmly at their daughter.

"You're....you're both here...," Rainbow said, smiling as tears filled her eyes.

Without bothering to waste a single moment questioning this apparent impossibility, Rainbow walked in between her ghostlike parents, thankful for the light they provided her. Their light reflected the colors of their coats, and both the beige of Sunstreak's Shine coat and the periwinkle of Rainbow Blaze's coat blended together well to grant her with a bright enough light to see several feet in front of her. Their presence also shielded her from the rain, and no longer could she feel it pouring down upon her head or blowing into her face. After what seemed like hours of walking in complete darkness with raindrops assaulting every single inch of her body, Rainbow Dash finally felt a sense a freedom from her prison.


Rainbow could not help but squeal with insatiable joy at her parents standing by her side. It was a sensation that she was entirely unfamiliar with, a sensation that had been robbed from her at a young age. Having spent her entire fillyhood wishing that she had two parents like most other fillies she knew, for the first time ever, she had them right within her grasp. Their presence was like a brand new set of wings—a set of wings with which she felt thoroughly protected, a set of wings which were now permanently attached to her body, never to fail or abandon her. Though she still felt like a helpless filly who was now simply bursting with excitement because she had finally been found, she did not feel any shame for it. Every last ounce of fear she had felt before was gone. All was well. All was right. And she wished that this moment would never end, even if it meant walking aimlessly in this place for all eternity...

After a while, Rainbow's hooves no longer touched mud and instead touched solid stone, and she did not need the light to let her know that the ground had changed again. She rose her hooves up to the rain, allowing the mud to wash off of them. But after a few more steps forward, Rainbow stopped immediately in her tracks, seeing that they were now standing at the edge of a bottomless pit that stretched on endlessly both horizontally and vertically, with nothing but pitch darkness lying inside it and beyond it. It was the end of the field.

"So...this is it, huh?" Rainbow said. "What now? Should we fly?"

Rainbow looked up at her parents, and was somewhat disturbed to see that in place of their smiles were grim expressions, as though they somehow knew that it was no positive sign that they had reached the end. The rain that fell inside the massive pit vanished almost as soon as it entered, disappearing thoroughly into the void of darkness.

"I guess we should start walking back, right?" asked Rainbow, turning around quickly in response to their expressions. However, she instantly noticed that neither of her parents had made a move to turn away from the cliff, and they remained staring down into the dark void.

Before Rainbow had a chance to turn them away from the cliff, her mother continued to walk forward, and to her horror, she began to step carelessly over the edge...

"NO, MOM!!!!! NOOOOOO!!!!!" Rainbow screamed, but it was too late. Sunstreak Shine fell into the void, her body instantly losing its unique glow as she disappeared from sight. Tears flooded from Rainbow's eyes as she felt her mother's presence vanish entirely. In a single moment, the joy she had felt just minutes ago was replaced intense grief at losing her mother for the second time in her life.

Her soaking, tear-filled eyes looked up at her father, she was horrified to see that he had also begun to take a few steps forward...


But Rainbow Blaze ignored her, and he cast himself into the bottomless pit, disappearing into nothingness just as her mother did before him.

"NOOOOOOO!!!! NOOOO!!!" Rainbow Dash screamed in agony, curling up on the ground. They were gone, and she could feel their absence ripping into her heart. She was all alone again, and she now realized that this is how it would be forever and for the rest of her life.

"I'm an orphan...," she whispered, feeling no shame from her words. "I'm a little lost orphan. And I'm scared..."

The rain resumed pouring atop Rainbow's head with the same level of cruelty as it had before. She stared down into the bottomless pit in a trance, as though expecting her parents to fly back out of it. But she knew within her heart that they were never coming back again.

Rainbow no longer wanted to keep walking, she no longer wanted to keep fighting the rain and the dark, and she no longer wanted to be stuck inside this never-ending hell. It was now vividly clear to her what her only option for escape from this prison was...

"Mom. Dad. I'm coming..."

Rainbow Dash stepped closer to the pit's edge and leaned forward slowly. Within seconds, her hooves no longer touched the rocky ground. She slipped forward into the void, tumbling and tumbling as she swiftly fell through the nothingness. She closed her eyes and awaited the end, her wings remaining shut with no desire to save herself or even slow her fall...

It was all over...


"How is she today?" Rarity asked the nurse who was currently standing by Rainbow Dash's bedside.

"She's looking very well, you'll be happy to know," the nurse answered. "Her mental state appears to be stabilizing, and there's no reason to expect that it will drop again. I do believe that this will be passing soon."

"We can only hope...," Applejack said with a relieved smile.

Everyone had gathered together in Rainbow Dash's room before breakfast the following morning, hopeful that she would have regained consciousness at some point during the night. Instead, they were only greeted by the nurse, who was in the middle of running tests and checking Rainbow's vitals. Pinkie remained sitting beside her comatose body, looking both increasingly tired and hungry with heavy bags under her eyes and tiny strands of hair popping out from her mane.

"Pinkie, have you slept at all?" Twilight asked after the nurse left the room.

Pinkie shook her head without taking her eyes off of Rainbow.

"Have you eaten at all?" asked Fluttershy with an equal amount of concern in her voice.

Pinkie shook her head again, and the friends exchanged apprehensive glances with each other. As they expected, Pinkie was intent not to leave Rainbow Dash's side for even a second, just as she had not left the mailbox after Rainbow went away to the Wonderbolts Academy. They suddenly realized that they had even more reason to be thankful that she was not in any critical condition.

"We were about to go out to breakfast," said Twilight. "We would really like it if you came with us."

"No," Pinkie answered at once. With a sorrowful sigh, Twilight walked closer to her.

"Pinkie, you need to eat," she said, placing a tender hoof on her shoulder. "Just come with us for a little while. She's not going to wake up any sooner if you just continue to sit here."

"I'm not hungry," Pinkie responded, shaking her head. Twilight stared apologetically at her friends, hoping that one of them would have a better idea of what to say to her.

Rarity took a step forward. "Darling, Rainbow Dash is going to be fine. We were just told that she's doing fine and this may not last that much longer. It still may still be some time before she wakes up and you have to—"

Rainbow's body suddenly jolted forcefully, went still for a brief moment, then jolted again with even more force. Everyone immediately crowded around the bed, staring intently at her. The electrocardiograph beeped with more intensity as her heart rate increased. Rainbow continued to jolt and shift on the bed, displaying far more motion than she had the previous day. Her friends watched her, scarcely blinking, hoping that this was finally it. But once Rainbow's body went still again and the electrocardiograph slowed its beeping, an icy fear fell over them as they realized the possibility that something far worse might have been taking place right before their eyes...

After an unbearable moment of silence and stillness, the crimson of Rainbow Dash's irises could faintly be seen as her eyes gradually opened...

Chapter 8 -- Awake

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Rainbow Dash could see nothing except for group of colorful, fuzzy, and strangely recognizable shapes as her eyes slowly reverted to a state which could have deceived anypony into believing that she was fully conscious again. Her mind was a scrambled mess, with dozens of thoughts and memories swirling about relentlessly, trying to make sense of what was happening. Further reducing her ability to concentrate was a painful throbbing in her head, which pierced her so badly that she instinctively clutched it with her forehooves.

"Rainbow Dash!" cried a hyperactive voice which startled her.

"Quiet, Pinkie!" scolded a second voice. "You can't just shout like that. You're going to scare her."

Rainbow looked up to see one of the fuzzy shapes lean in closer to her face.

"Rainbow, darling, are you all right?" a recognizable voice whispered.


Rainbow Dash attempted to say the name of the one who spoke, but she lost her voice almost as soon as she found it, and as far as anyone knew, all she had uttered was an unintelligible grunt. The memories swirling about her mind refused to settle, but a single image continuously wedged itself into the forefront of her thoughts—an image which filled her with fear. It was of her falling endlessly into hollow darkness, deeper and deeper into nothingness. It her most recent memory, and she failed to recall anything beyond it—her memory stored no image of how or when her fall ended, or if it even ended at all. The image increased in vividness as she continued to think on it, and Rainbow's fear intensified as she began to doubt that she was even alive anymore. She closed and reopened her eyes multiple times, but the fuzzy images did not become any less fuzzy, nor did her situation make any more sense to her.

Pinkie Pie's face fell at Rainbow's lack of response.

"Do you think....she doesn't remember who we are?" she asked mournfully.

"No, of course not, Pinkie," reassured Twilight. "We just need to give her a little time. She'll come back to us soon."

Within seconds, the door swung open and the doctor swiftly glided inside the room, a clipboard magically levitated beside him.

"I'm going to need all of you to take a step back. Right now," he demanded emotionlessly.

Rainbow's friends did as instructed, surprised by his sudden entrance. Pinkie Pie remained as close to the bed as she could, tears running down her cheeks at the thought that they may have lost her after all. The doctor stared deeply into Rainbow's blank eyes as though searching for some sign of life behind them. She lurched backward as he leaned closer, instantly fearful that the unrecognizable figure who now filled her hazy vision would do her harm.

"Rainbow Dash? Would you please raise your right hoof if you can understand what I'm saying?" he requested.

The words reached Rainbow's ears, but her hoof did not raise. Her mind continued to race and the pain in her head was so unbearable that only her lack of voice kept her from screaming.

"Would you please raise your right hoof if you can understand what I'm saying?" he repeated.

Again, Rainbow Dash failed to respond. Cold sweat ran down from both sides of her brow and her heartbeat increased steadily. She was spontaneously struck with a prevailing urge to move as far as she could from the unfamiliar voice.

The doctor sighed with disappointment and wrote on the clipboard.

"Is she going to be okay, Dr. Horse?" Fluttershy asked, also concerned about Rainbow Dash's failure to respond.

Doctor Horse turned towards her. "This is not uncommon. Perhaps I simply need to speak slower. You see, this is why I told you that she cannot be forced to answer questions when she wakes up. It's probably going to be some time before she—"

"Oh my!" Rarity cried, and Horse spun back around to see Rainbow Dash squirming rapidly, attempting to remove herself from the bed as though under the belief that it was somehow holding her captive.

"No!" he cried frantically, but before he had a chance to act, Rainbow flopped over the bedside, taking the blanket with her.

She grunted with pain as her head struck the solid floor, instantly worsening the throbbing. Her wings sprang open at once, freeing herself from the grasp of the blanket. She struggled to fly away, but could only flap her wings with enough strength to lift her body inches from the floor. Visible anguish swept over Rainbow's face as her struggle to escape became more desperate. She dropped herself to the linoleum and crawled forward in a frenzy, moving towards an exit that she could hardly see and was not fully certain even existed.

"Rainbow Dash, stop!" Fluttershy squeaked as the frantic pegasus crawled past her legs.

But Rainbow did not stop. Her teeth gritted, she squirmed about the floor, desperate to get as far away as she could from the voices, from the confusion, and from the uncertainty. The cords connecting her foreleg to the electrocardiograph detached as she moved beyond their length. Her friends stared in bewilderment, unsure of how to stop her without driving her further into unyielding fear. When Rainbow had nearly reached the door, the doctor finally wrapped her in an aura and gently picked her up, moving her back towards the bed.

As she felt herself being lifted, Rainbow Dash let out an agonizing, high-pitched yelp which sounded like it could have easily come from a frightened puppy. It punctured crudely through the ears of her friends, each of whom never would have imagined that Rainbow Dash was capable of making such a fearful sound. Rainbow's hooves flailed about rapidly, struggling with every last bit of strength she had to force her way out of the aura, but she was helplessly trapped. Horse gently lowered her body back onto the bed, but did not release her.

"I'm going to need you all to clear the room. Right now," he said sternly.

Twilight stared at him in disbelief. "You can't possibly expect us—"

"Actually no, wait, who among you would you say that she's closest to?" he interrupted.

Fluttershy casually looked around at her friends as though expecting one of them to speak up and claim themselves as Rainbow's closest acquaintance. When she saw that they were all staring back at her, she uncomfortably raised her hoof.

"Then I need you to stay," said Horse. "I need you to talk to her."

"Doctor, what's going on?!" Twilight asked, frustrated. "Tell us what's happening to her!"

"This is a fairly uncommon occurrence that afflicts ponies waking up from a coma caused by head trauma," he explained. "The trauma is still heavy on her mind, and she is now in a state of fight-or-flight. It's highly necessary that we relax her and calm her down." He looked to Fluttershy. "That's why I need you to talk to her. Hearing a voice she recognizes is the most efficient way of doing so."

Rainbow groaned loudly and painfully. She eventually ceased her fight against the aura, and Dr. Horse released her from it while simultaneously reconnecting the electrocardiograph's cords to her foreleg. She snapped her eyes shut and went stiff, wrapping her forelegs around her body as though bracing herself for what would happen to her next. The electrocardiograph now beeped twice per second, complimenting the growing tension in the room.

"Start talking to her," Horse ordered to Fluttershy.

"Well, why do we hafta leave?" asked Applejack. "Couldn't we also stay and talk to her? She knows our voices, too."

"No," the doctor answered, shaking his head. "She needs to hear only one voice, and that voice needs to be the one she is most likely to recognize. Hearing multiple voices would probably confuse her, and that's the absolute last thing she needs right now. So please, I have to ask you to go. The more ponies she sees crowding around her, the more nervous she may become."

"I'm not going anywhere," Pinkie Pie said in a tone that was unusually firm for her.

"Pinkie, please...," Twilight implored, having expected that she would resist.

"No! I don't want to leave her!" she cried, shaking her head vigorously.

"Keep your voice down," Horse scolded in a low, yet hostile voice. "Shouting is only going to make her condition worse."

Pinkie instantly shoved both forehooves into her mouth and let out a solemn whimper.

"Pinkie, if you want Rainbow Dash to get better, then we have to leave," Twilight whispered to her. "We'll come right back as soon as she's okay again."

Pinkie removed her hooves from her mouth and bit down hard on her lip. "But..."

"C'mon, sugarcube," said Applejack, placing a hoof on Pinkie's shoulder. "We hafta do what we can to help Rainbow Dash recover."

Her eyes filling with tears again, Pinkie Pie finally turned and walked slowly out of the room, with the rest of them following closely behind her, shutting the door as they left.

"Why aren't you talking?!" Horse demanded to a silent Fluttershy, making her jolt in fear.

"Umm....well....you didn't tell me what to say to her..."

"Anything," he answered with a sigh. "Anything to calm her down. Tell her that everything is going to be okay. Tell her that she's not in any danger. We have to reduce her stress level now."

"O-Okay," replied Fluttershy, turning to the stiffened mass on the bed, which still seemed to be awaiting some miserable fate.

"Rainbow Dash? Can you hear me?"

She extended a hoof out to touch Rainbow's, but as soon as it made contact, Rainbow immediately pulled her hoof away. Fluttershy frowned.

"Rainbow Dash, it's me. It's Fluttershy. I'm not going to hurt you."

Rainbow's eyes spread open again, and she looked in Fluttershy's direction. Her vision remained fuzzy, but the new figure she now saw was almost instantly familiar to her.


"You remember me, don't you?" Fluttershy asked. "We've been friends for a very long time."


Fluttershy beamed at Rainbow's attempt to say her name.

"Yes, it's me! I'm here!"

"Keep at it," encouraged Dr. Horse, who was in the process of filling a syringe with a liquid substance from a tiny bottle.

"Everything is going to be okay, Rainbow Dash," assured Fluttershy.

The anguish and fear which had shown so heavily in Rainbow's face faded away, but her forehead was still moist with cold sweat and she exhaled her breaths in shivers. Fluttershy picked the blanket up off the floor and carefully placed it back over Rainbow's body, thankfully receiving no adverse reaction from her.

"Fluttershy..." Rainbow said, her voice barely carrying above a whisper.

"Yes? What do you need?"

Rainbow Dash stared at her, eyes full of sorrow and pain. Despite appearing calmer, the electrocardiograph's frequent beeps did not indicate her heartbeat slowing back down.

"Okay, I'm ready," said Doctor Horse, and Fluttershy looked up to see him standing over Rainbow's body on the opposite side of the bed, levitating the syringe. "This will help to reduce her heart rate, but I'm going to need you to make sure that she doesn't fight me. The entire serum needs to enter her bloodstream."

"Umm...how do I do that?" Fluttershy asked uncomfortably.

"Talk her through it. If she starts getting up or tries to get away, I need you to hold her down."

Fluttershy took a deep breath, feeling uneasy about the notion of holding Rainbow Dash down....at least without getting her permission first.

"O-okay," she said, leaning back down closer to her and staring her directly in the eye. "Rainbow Dash, I want you to look at me, okay? Just keep looking at me."

"Fluttershy, I..."

"Shhhh," said Fluttershy, gently placing her hoof on Rainbow's lips. "Just relax, okay?"

The doctor meticulously prodded the syringe into Rainbow's left foreleg and she immediately twisted her body in a convulsion-like resistance.

"No, Rainbow!" Fluttershy cried, pressing down on her with both forehooves with as much strength as she deemed necessary. "It's okay. Everything is okay. This is going to help you."

Rainbow trembled uncontrollably as the serum exited the syringe and entered her body, feeling so cold that, with a fully conscious mind, she could have mistaken the bed for a thick layer of ice. Almost at once, the electrocardiograph's beeping gradually slowed. Feeling that the worst was now over, Fluttershy gently caressed Rainbow's hoof, smiling with relief.

"There, now that's better, isn't it?" she asked tenderly.

Rainbow's vision went fuzzy again and her eyelids struggled to remain open. A loud ringing filled her ears, making her deaf to all that was being said.

"Alright, well, that should do it," said Horse, stepping away from the bed and placing the syringe on a nearby counter. "Good job. It really seems like you broke her out of it."

"I hope so..." Fluttershy said with a nod.

They both watched as Rainbow Dash succumbed the serum's effects, falling into a deep sleep.

"Still, it troubles me that this happened at all," said Horse with a frown. "Perhaps her trauma delves deeper than a simple head injury. Has she been under any noticeable stress lately?"

"You could say that," said Fluttershy, shame weighing her head down.

"Hmm....I may need to recommend her for psychological therapy when she comes to again," he said.

"She won't do that," Fluttershy said, shaking her head solemnly. "She's going to want to get out of here as quickly as possible."

"Well, for the sake of her own well being, I'm afraid she may need to," Doctor Horse replied.

"She lost her dad recently," said Fluttershy, staring down at Rainbow Dash's still body, thankful that she was not conscious to hear her words.

"I see," Horse remarked flatly. "I take it they were close, then?"

"Not exactly," Fluttershy replied with a sigh. "But it's affected her in a big way."

"I'm sure," Horse said, nodding.

"Is she going to fall back into a coma?" Fluttershy asked fearfully.

"No, she's just sleeping it off," answered Horse. "It's best we leave her alone for now."

Rainbow Dash stirred on the bed, ejecting a small cough.

Fluttershy frowned. "I hate seeing her like this. She's in so much pain....and I just can't do anything about it."

"I'm very sorry," the doctor said, magically adjusting his glasses. "I'm going to do a double check on her brain activity again. You can..."

His mouth snapped shut when he saw Fluttershy move to sit tenderly beside Rainbow Dash, signaling to him that she was waiting to be left alone. He trailed out of the room without finishing his sentence.

"Rainbow Dash...."

Fluttershy let out a sigh after the cyan pegasus coughed a second time.

"I know you didn't do this to yourself," she said, fully aware that Rainbow could not hear her. "But I still don't know why you're here. And I still don't know why you would keep something like this from me. I would have never kept something like this from you."

She glimpsed Rainbow's temples twitch from underneath the bandage on her head.

"I just don't know why you would lie to me. Why you would hide your suffering from us. I know you'd be too proud to accept help, but I thought that even you wouldn't keep something like this from us. I just don't understand. Is it because you don't trust us? Because you don't trust me?!"

Fluttershy instantly covered her mouth with her hoof, regretful that her tone had turned hostile. Rainbow Dash remained asleep, all sounds passing like silent wind through her ears.

"I'm not mad," she resumed, lowering her hoof. "No, I'm not mad at you. I'm sad for you. I feel sorry for you because you think that you don't have friends who can get you through this difficult time. That's what really upsets me. That's what I really can't understand."

She descended into a brief silence, eventually realizing that it had been quite some time since she last saw Rainbow sleeping so soundly. After what she had just done to relax her into sleep, Fluttershy could not help but feel something of a motherly bond towards her, and it was a warm enough feeling to coax a smile on her face.

"But then I remember our talk a few days ago, and...I just don't know what to think," she said, the smile fading. "I feel so horrible for giving you hope. I thought I was helping you, but.....I probably just made you feel even worse. And you put that guilt on me. Why couldn't you have just told me then? I wouldn't have told anypony else if you didn't want me to. I would have given you the time you needed. I never once told them about your father until now, because I knew that you wouldn't have wanted me to. I've shown you that I can keep your secrets, but you just—"

Fluttershy silenced herself again as she sensed her anger rising.

"I'm not mad at you," she repeated in a whisper. "But I don't really know....what I'm going to say to you..."

Rainbow Dash's mouth twitched and her nostrils flared. Her unconscious mind remained blank; no unpleasant nightmares or visions haunted her sleep as they had before. Fluttershy did not speak again, allowing the electrocardiograph to remain the only source of noise in the room.

After several quiet minutes passed, the door opened again. Pinkie Pie immediately barreled inside ahead of her friends, reclaiming her place at Rainbow's bedside.

"How is she now?" asked Rarity.

"I think she'll be okay," Fluttershy answered, motioning for them to remain quiet. "But we need to let her sleep."

Rarity smiled with relief. "Thank goodness..."

"I still can't believe that happened," Twilight said, staring sadly at Rainbow's unconscious body. "I can't imagine what must have been going through her head. What she must have been experiencing. I've never seen her so scared before..."

Fluttershy nodded in sorrowful agreement. "Me neither...."

"I truly hate to think this way but....perhaps we were too lucky," Rarity noted.

"Whaddya mean?" questioned Applejack.

"We received news that most ponies in the same situation could only hope for," Rarity explained. "A pony coming out of a coma without having any lasting or permanent damage can almost be considered a miracle. I simply feel that we may have been too lucky. That perhaps it was indeed too good to be true, and....perhaps she will suffer some lasting damage after all."

Fluttershy instantly shook her head with repulsion.

"Please don't say that," she said in a calm, yet demanding voice.

"My apologies," Rarity replied at once.

An uncomfortable silence fell over them, triggered by the fear that there may have been truth to Rarity's words. For a long while, they each watched Rainbow sleep, partially annoyed that they were waiting for her to awaken once again, as though she had never woken up at all.

A quiet, yet audible creaking sound suddenly echoed out from behind them, and Scootaloo crept her way inside the room while lying low to the floor, attempting to avoid being seen. But the silence in the room prevented her entry from going unnoticed, and she immediately stood upright as she saw every head turning in her direction.

"Oh...so she's still out, huh?" she said, feeling embarrassed, yet relieved to see Rainbow still unconscious on the bed.

"Actually, she woke up a little while ago," replied Twilight, deciding to ignore what she had seen.

"She did?" Scootaloo asked, blinking with surprise. "So why is she asleep again?"

No one looked willing to answer her question.

"She just....she wasn't ready to wake up yet," said Fluttershy. "So she's just doing a bit more sleeping until she is. It's normal sleeping. She's not in a coma anymore."

Scootaloo locked her eyes onto Rainbow Dash in a considerably cold stare.

"So....she really woke up?" she asked for further clarification.


"And....she's okay?"

"Of course she's okay," Twilight replied.

"...I hope..." Rarity mumbled under her breath.

"Well, then, that's all I wanted to know," Scootaloo said apprehensively. "I have to go now. I can't miss two days of school."

"Good thinking," Twilight said, nodding. "Hopefully she'll be awake again by the time you get out this afternoon."

Scootaloo's eyes suddenly dropped to the floor. "I'm not coming by this afternoon."


"In fact..."

The filly sighed, unsure of what reactions she would receive from her next words.

"....I don't want you guys to tell her that I was ever here. If she asks if I ever came to visit her, just tell her 'no', okay?"

The room went silent again, all awaiting Scootaloo to explain her reasoning behind this request, but she did not appear to have any intention of doing so. Applejack raised an eyebrow, almost insulted that Scootaloo had the audacity to ask her to lie.

"You're going to have to explain yourself if you want us to even consider that, Scootaloo," Twilight said after realizing that she was not going to say any more.

"It's just....complicated," Scootaloo replied, biting her lip.

"Why in plum heaven would you want us do that, Scootaloo?" demanded Applejack. "You would want her ta think you don't care about her?"

Her tone forced a sense of guilt out of Scootaloo, which immediately hung from her face.

"I just can't see her," she said in a low voice.

"Why not?" asked Fluttershy.

"The last time we talked...it just wasn't pleasant. It would just be too uncomfortable if she knew I was here."

Fluttershy shook her head. "Just because you have a spat every now and then, doesn't mean—"

"It's more than that," Scootaloo said with hostility in her voice which replaced the guilt. "I'm just too mad at her. And aren't you guys, too? Like I said, she was never going to tell you anything. She said that to my face! All I wanted to do was help her, but she rejected my help. And I....I don't want to give her the satisfaction of showing her that I'll still come running when she's in trouble, even when she doesn't want me to."

Scootaloo was pierced by a set of stares, each deep enough to show understanding for her point of view, but none that indicated that she was going to receive a response. Rainbow Dash suddenly stirred on the bed with much more vigor than before, appearing as though she was going to finally return to consciousness again.

"I have to go," Scootaloo said, hurrying out of the room before she could awaken.

Everyone else crowed around the bed once again, hopeful that it would be for the last time. As before, Rainbow's crimson eyes came into view. They appeared to contain more awareness than they had the first time.

"Rainbow...?" Fluttershy squeaked cautiously.

As sudden as it was unexpected, Rainbow shot up from the bed, fear and desperation immediately sweeping over her face.

"Where's my mom?! My dad?! Are they okay?!" she cried loudly, startling each of them.

Fluttershy hung her head, instantly realizing that Rarity's fears might have just been confirmed...

Chapter 9 -- A Talk

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For perhaps the three-or-so hundredth time in her young life, Rainbow Dash once again found herself sitting in front of her mother's picture, tears muddling her vision. The curtains were drawn over the windows in her father's bedroom, and the evening sky outside failed to break through the room's darkness.

It was all over. After months of trying for hours, day after day, she now accepted with the heaviest reluctance that she would never be able to do a Sonic Rainboom ever again. And that meant that she would not be guaranteed a spot in the Wonderbolts when she was older. After months of her constant denials, it now seemed like her father was right. It was just a fluke—a fluke that would never happen again for as long as she lived.

"You'd believe in me, wouldn't you?" she tearfully asked her mother.

After a few seconds, Rainbow nodded as though she had heard the picture frame bestow her with a positive response.

"Yeah, I knew you would," she replied, smiling with satisfaction. "You wouldn't think I'm just an embarrassment."

Rainbow wiped her eyes. She knew that it was only a matter of time before her father came home again, and she did not want to leave any evidence that she had been crying. She dreaded the very thought of telling him that he had been right all along—the taste of crow in her mouth would be too much for her to chew, let alone the hurtful "I told you so"-like words that he would most certainly say.

Rainbow groaned with frustration. "I wish you were here, mom..."

Never before had she felt this sensation of everything utterly crashing down upon her. Her dream never seemed further away...


"Rainbow Dash? Did you understand what I just said?" questioned Dr. Horse, concerned by Rainbow's silence, which had now lasted almost a minute.

Rainbow Dash was sitting upright in her hospital bed, trying to twist her mind around everything she was being told. She was distracted by the cords in her foreleg, connected to a machine which beeped annoyingly every second, as well as the throbbing sensation in her head, which she guessed was the reason for the bandage wrapped around it. As far as she could tell for sure, she was once again a patient in Ponyville Hospital, and she wanted to get out as quickly as possible.

"I....I was in a coma," Rainbow replied in a somewhat uncertain voice, as though she did not believe her own words.

"That's right," nodded Horse, magically scribbling something onto his levitated clipboard. "You had an accident the other day. Do you remember it?"

Rainbow ignored the question and looked to her right, where her five friends stood staring back at her, some with traces of fledgling tears moistening their eyes. She stared each of them in their faces, feeling sadness come over her as she looked into their somber expressions.

"Do you know who they are?" asked Horse.

"Of course," Rainbow stated at once. "They're my friends."

"Can you tell me their names?" asked Horse.

"Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy, Twilight Sparkle, Applejack, and Rarity," Rainbow answered, naming them in the order they stood from left to right.

"Good job, Rainbow Dash," Horse said in a voice that sounded as though he had just praised an infant foal for taking her first steps. Rainbow instantly glanced back at him, irritated by his patronizing tone.

"Look, I don't need to do this, okay? I'm not stupid. What else do you want from me? You want me to count to ten? Fine. One-two-three-four-five-six-seven-eight-nine-ten! What me to recite the alphabet? A-B-C-D-E-F-G-H-I-J-K-L-M-N-O-P! In fact, I'll do the rest backwards. Z-Y-X-W-V-U-T-S-R-Q! So there. Are you happy? Can I get out of here now?"

Dr. Horse raised both his eyebrows. "Well, Rainbow Dash, I'm afraid we still have some things we need to check before we can discharge you. As I'm told, when you woke up again, you immediately asked your friends where your parents were."

Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes. "They're....they're gone. Both of them. I know that now. I was just....I was confused earlier."

"But do you know what caused you to become confused, Rainbow Dash?" asked Horse.

"It was.....it was just a dream I had. Just a dream. It wasn't real."

"What kind of dream was it? Do you remember?" questioned Horse.

Rainbow Dash sighed deeply, closing her eyes as she mentally searched through her consciousness for traces of the dream. She remembered the falling and the darkness—they were still quite heavy on her mind, and she was still frightened by how real the experience had seemed. Backtracking from there, she faintly remembered walking alongside her mother and father, though was unable to comprehend why. Then her memories scattered, reducing to a series of vague images that did not make much sense to her: receiving a mouthful of mud after crashing to the ground. Unstoppable rain. An endlessly grassy field. A lone tree in the distance...

She soon opened her eyes again, staring back into the stern and serious faces of her friends and Dr. Horse.

"No. I don't remember much of it."

Horse nodded and silently scribbled onto his clipboard. "And do you remember how you felt when you woke up the first time, Rainbow Dash?"

"I...I remember feeling like I wasn't alive anymore," she answered.

"You remember being scared?" asked Horse.

Rainbow frowned, not wanting to think about the unbridled fear she had experienced as she crawled about the floor, attempting to escape with desperation greater than any she had ever felt in her entire life. Her recollection of the episode was mostly distant, but the fear was still exceedingly heavy on her mind.


Horse gave her an acknowledging look and wrote on his clipboard once more.

"Can you take these things off me?" Rainbow asked irritably, pointing at the electrocardiograph's cords in her foreleg.

"Not quite yet," answered Horse. "I want to ask if you can remember anything prior to waking up here. Anything that you know wasn't a dream."

As before, Rainbow Dash closed her eyes to delve deeply into her mind. The dream consumed most of her recent memory, and attempting to look back at anything preceding it proved to be immensely difficult.

"I....I remember Scootaloo," she said after a while, opening her eyes again. "And....she was mad at me."

"Do you remember perhaps going for a fly? Perhaps crashing?" asked Horse.

"No, I don't," Rainbow answered at once, not even bothering to look inside her mind again. "Can I get out of here now?"

"You were very lucky, you know?" stated Horse, feeling the slightest bit annoyed at Rainbow's attitude. "Very lucky. I can honestly say that in my sixteen-year career, I've never seen a patient come out of a coma as quickly as you. And your recovery has also been one of the quickest I've ever seen."

Rainbow did not reply, choosing instead to stare down uncomfortably at the blankets which covered her hind legs. Though her friends were all thankful that Rainbow's quick recovery did not suggest that she would carry any permanent mental damage as Rarity feared, none of them could deny that there was something different about her. Perhaps she was a bit more morose—no longer attempting to hide her emotions, yet still unwilling to open up about them.

"Do you have any notion of when she could be released, doctor?" asked Rarity.

"Probably soon," answered Horse. "There are just a few things I need to examine first, and I still need to ensure that she isn't in danger of having another incident like the one half an hour ago."

"Could we at least take her to breakfast?" asked Applejack. "There're some things we wanna talk to her about."

"Well, I'd first have to check to be sure she is able to eat solid foods," said Horse.

Rainbow groaned loudly.

"In any case, I'm going to get a reading on her brain activity to see how much she has recovered now," said Horse, ignoring her. "I'll leave you all for a while."

He stepped away from Rainbow's bed and strode out of the room, finally granting them the privacy they desired.

"You guys have got to get me out of here," Rainbow said, looking back at her friends. "I'm gonna climb the walls!"

She faintly chuckled to herself, but her friends did not so much as crack a half-hearted smile—nor did Pinkie inquire if Rainbow had inexplicably acquired spider powers. They stared at her as somberly as before, and their stares once again drew out her own sorrowful feelings.

"Look, guys, I'm fine," Rainbow assured. "I don't remember what happened, but....I'm okay now."

"Could you please just stop?" Twilight snapped at her.

"Uhhh...stop what?" Rainbow asked apprehensively.

"Stop acting like this is okay," she answered. "It's not okay! You being here is not okay!"

"Do you have even the slightest idea of how worried we've been?" cried Rarity. "Pinkie Pie didn't leave your side. Not even to eat!"

"And who knows what woulda happened if Big Mac hadn't found you," added Applejack.

Rainbow Dash felt her ears go limp, their words stinging at her from the inside out.

"I'm sorry. I'm really sorry, guys. I....I don't know what else to say."

"Well, we ain't quite sure of what to say to you, either," retorted Applejack.

Rainbow looked up at her at once. "Uhh...what's that supposed to mean?"

"We know, Rainbow Dash," said Twilight. "We know that your dad died the other day, and we know that you've been keeping it from us. Oh, and by the way, Princess Celestia sends her condolences."

Rainbow Dash instantly froze from the inside out as Twilight's words sailed past her ears. The electrocardiograph's beeping spontaneously spiked, indicating an equal spike in her heartbeat, but she could feel nothing beating from inside her. Her heart had frozen over—as had her lungs, stomach, and even the blood whipping through her veins. She looked to Fluttershy, who almost instantly shifted her eyes to the ground to avoid her gaze.


"How could you keep something like that from us, darling?" cried Rarity.


"I just can't believe you would lie to us like that," Applejack snapped.


"Surely, you had to have known we would find out eventually," stated Twilight.


"Why didn't you trust us, Rainbow Dash?" asked Pinkie Pie.


Rainbow sighed, taking a moment to realize the mess she was in. It was as though the pillars of her life were now crumbling, one after another, and soon the roof would be crashing down along with them. There was no time to brace for impact—she could only rely on whatever protection her own body strength could grant her.

"It's not that I don't trust you guys," she said, avoiding eye contact with her friends. "It's just...there are things about my dad that you don't know and wouldn't understand. I really didn't want you to—"

"They know now," Fluttershy said somewhat coldly, instantly looking back at Rainbow. "I told them about your problems with your dad."

Rainbow Dash stared at her incredulously, unsure of whether she found Fluttershy's tone or the words that accompanied it more surprising.

"I trusted you not to tell anypony!"

"Well, I guess I didn't have your trust anyway, did I?" Fluttershy snapped, no longer interested in suppressing her anger. "And don't even try to use that as an excuse for why you didn't tell us, because I knew all about that, and you still lied to me!"

Twilight, Pinkie, Applejack, and Rarity crossed uneasy glances with each other. Seeing Fluttershy angry was certainly no frequent occurrence on its own, but seeing her anger directed at Rainbow Dash was all but unprecedented. Rainbow Dash opened her mouth to reply, but struggled to find words to eject from it.

"I...I'm sorry I lied to you," she said in a low voice. "But I know what you would have said if I had told you. You would have said that I was stupid for letting all of those years pass by and not rebuilding our relationship before it was too late."

Fluttershy cut her eyes into a glare that was so intense, it conjured a streak of fear to pass through Rainbow's nerves. She stepped closer to the bed, brushing past the line of her stationary friends.

"I would never have said something that cruel to you! Is that what you really think?!"

Rainbow dropped her head. "No. But....you would have at least thought it. And you would have been right."

"I wouldn't have even thought it!" cried Fluttershy, a bit more calmly. "All I would have felt was sorrow, and that's exactly what I feel now. I wish you felt that you could talk to me, to any of us, about anything that's troubling you, but I guess that isn't the case."

"I just needed to deal with it on my own," said Rainbow, shaking her head. "None of you would really understand how I feel."

"And how has dealin' with it on your own been workin' for you?" asked Applejack. "Not too well, I reckon, considern' where we are."

"Okay, okay, I admit that I really don't know how to deal with it," Rainbow retorted. "But I've been getting by."

"'Getting by?' This is what you call 'getting by?!'" Twilight snapped.

"What do you mean?" Rainbow asked nervously.

"You may not remember how you got here, but I'm still going to ask you something anyway," said Twilight. "Do you believe that you would be here, sitting in this hospital bed if you had just told us? Would your accident still have happened if you had just decided to let us in?"

Rainbow went silent for a few minutes, once more attempting to look as far back as her memories extended for anything preceding the crash. Among more of the same vague images, he soon remembered screaming in terror just before her parents fell deliberately into an endless, dark abyss. She then simultaneously remembered the despair that overtook her as she stepped over the edge and fell into the abyss herself. Rainbow clenched her teeth together in sorrow as realization hit her like a speeding train, just as it had in her dream. The very thought she had tried her hardest to distance herself from over the last few days now smothered her entirely, causing her bones to tremble. Her father was gone, and she knew now that she was going to miss him...

"I...I don't know," Rainbow said in a solemn whisper.

"Do you truly think this a coincidence?" questioned Rarity.

"I didn't do this to myself," Rainbow said at once. "I know that much."

"We're not saying you did," said Twilight, further relieved to hear those words from Rainbow's own mouth. "But perhaps you being preoccupied with thoughts that you wanted to keep to yourself distracted you somehow and caused you to crash."

Rainbow Dash exhaled several long breaths before answering, calming herself enough to ease her trembling.

"I don't know," she said again, shaking her head.

A momentary silence fell, triggered by a sudden loss of words between them. It was frustrating to imagine that they would probably never know how Rainbow Dash had ended up lying unconscious in the grass at the bottom of a hill at Sweet Apple Acres.

"Were you ever going to tell us, Rainbow Dash?" Pinkie Pie asked timidly.

"I....I figured it would come out eventually. I just wanted to hold it off for as long as I could," she answered.

Pinkie did not look the slightest bit satisfied with her response, nor did anyone else.

"Rainbow, if one of our parents or anypony else close to us died, you would know about it. We would tell you about it," said Twilight.

"I know you would," Rainbow replied, nodding. "But you wouldn't have been so confused about how to feel about it like I was. I really wish I could have seen him again. I really wish things had been different. The more I think about it now....the more it just drives me crazy."

"What drives you crazy?" questioned Fluttershy. "I hope you're not only upset because you missed out on fulfilling your dream."

Rainbow shook her head, her ears dropping. "It's more than that now. It's—"

Before she could say another word, Dr. Horse entered the room again.

"Well, Rainbow Dash, all signs are showing that your brain is functioning at above 90 percent of its normal capacity. You are well on your way to recovery, and this means that we are just about ready to discharge you."

"Finally," Rainbow muttered, then pointed to her head bandage and the electrocardiograph's cords. "Can you take these off me now?"

Dr. Horse magically disconnected the cords from Rainbow's foreleg, simultaneously ending the relentless beeping of the electrocardiograph and bringing momentous relief to everyone in the room. He then magically unwrapped the bandage thoroughly until it was only a long piece of ribbon-like gauze, and the throbbing in Rainbow's head almost instantly began to pass away. Upon her forehead were two small, white patches which had been enchanted to monitor her brain activity, and Horse slowly peeled them off. Her mane had been rendered frazzled and unkempt after being stuffed inside the bandage, and she took a brief moment to straighten it out as best she could.

"Thanks," she said, feeling a bit happier now that she could feel her hair again. "So, is that all?"

"Not exactly," said Horse. "I'm recommending you for psychological therapy."

Rainbow looked at him as though he had just told her that she would be unable to fly for over a month.

"Umm, no, that's okay," she said at once, though she assumed that her protest would be fruitless.

"I'm afraid I must insist, only for the sake of your health," said Horse. "I believe that you may have some additional trauma that needs to be overcome. Surely, you can understand?"

Rainbow groaned with annoyance, feeling as though she was trapped in a nightmare which refused to end.

"Don't worry, all I'm going to do is set you up with an appointment with my colleague, Dr. Hoofs J. Eyes'n'Neck," said Horse. "Since your brain activity is showing no sign of a repeat occurrence anytime soon, we'll discharge you once it's set up."

"Fine," Rainbow replied, looking as though she suddenly had an unusual desire to melt into the bed.

"He has an opening on Monday at 10:30 AM," said Horse. "Would that be good for you? Of course, you could always—"

"Sure," Rainbow answered swiftly, staring lackadaisically at the ceiling.

"Very well, then" said Dr. Horse, turning to leave. "I will return shortly."

Fluttershy waited until he was out of the room and the door was shut before speaking again.

"What were you going to say before, Rainbow Dash?"

Rainbow breathed in deeply, feeling grief instantly rushing back through her nerves as though a bucket of icy water had just been rudely dumped over her head. She exhaled in short breaths, finally ready to share her bottled feelings with the very ponies she had wanted so desperately to hide them from.

"I...I don't have a family anymore," she said softly. "My parents are gone....forever. I thought that it didn't affect me because I've been without them for so long, but....it does."

"Of course it does, sugarcube," consoled Applejack. "It's perfectly natural to feel affected by it."

Rainbow Dash closed her eyes as though attempting for a moment to suppress their leaking, but then opened them up again as she realized the pointlessness of it.

"Did you guys know that he chose not to let me know that he was sick?" she said, her tears falling quickly. "If I was sick, I would have wanted him to know about it. But he chose not to give me that. He chose to leave me without giving me a chance to see him again. To say goodbye..."

Rainbow's loose tears quickly escalated directly into sobs. Within the span of ten seconds, she felt the soft pressure of a hoof resting on her right shoulder, followed by another one on her left, followed by another on her back, followed by another on her head, and lastly followed by the gentle caressing of her right hoof. No words were spoken; no apologies or condolences uttered. All that needed to be said was already being said with perfect clarity in their silent gesture. What remaining bitter feelings Rainbow's friends still harbored against her were set entirely aside, and each of their eyes once again moistened over with sorrow.

Rainbow raised her head to look at her friends through wet, blurry eyes. This unmistakable feeling of their pity rubbing off on her was exactly what she wanted to avoid from the moment she first received the news her father's death. And yet, it was still exactly what she needed.

"Thanks, guys," she muttered softly, and the appreciation in her voice was easily heard through her sobs.

"This is what friends do," stated Twilight. "You should know that by now."

Another stream of tears leaked from Rainbow's eyes as her mind took everything in—the fact that it had taken a coma for her to realize what her father's death meant to her. The possibility that she could have easily died or come out of the coma with permanent neurological damage. The notion that she had tried so desperately to push away the ponies closest to her, who now held up the roof over her life after all of the remaining pillars had been reduced to rubble...

"I'm so sorry, you guys," Rainbow said, shaking in grief. "I'm sorry I put you through all this."

"We're sorry that you put yourself through all this, darling," replied Rarity.

In that moment, surrounded by her friends, Rainbow Dash knew that she never felt more utterly foolish in her entire life.


After nearly a half hour of shedding tears and sorrow, followed by a last free breakfast in the cafeteria, Rainbow Dash and her friends finally stepped out of the hospital. They were relieved that it was finally over, though not any less frustrated about how little they still knew about the circumstances by which Rainbow had ended up there in the first place. However, Rainbow had openly shared more information than her friends expected she would—information which included the date of the funeral, as well as what had happened in her horrifying dream.

Rainbow Dash stepped forward until she could feel the blissful sensation of the mid-morning sun beaming on her face, which instantly went to work drying away the remnants of tear stains on her cheeks. In her absence, the Weather Team still stuck to their weekly forecast as they always did, and she was immensely thankful that she did not happen to wake up on a rainy day. After everything that she now remembered from her dream, she was certain that she did not want to see rain ever again in her life.

"It's nice to feel some fresh air again," Rainbow said to no one in particular. "If you guys don't mind, I'm going to go stretch my wings for a while."

"Hold up, Rainbow," said Applejack, stopping her before she could fly off. "There's somethin' I wanna show you first." She turned to the rest of her friends. "And if y'all don't mind, I kinda want to show her alone."

They each stared at her with both curiosity and reluctance as though somewhat unsure about letting Rainbow Dash out of their sight for fear of another accident. Rainbow's lips curled downward and she stared towards the open sky, clearly desiring nothing more than to paint the air with her bright rainbow trail as she zipped through it.

"We'll meet up again soon," Applejack assured.

"Well, if you insist," said Rarity, shrugging. "Besides, I'm a bit behind on my work anyway."

"Me too," added Twilight. "I haven't really gotten much studying done lately."

Fluttershy and Pinkie nodded in unison, though neither looked particularly content.

"Where are we going?" Rainbow asked, poorly hiding the annoyance in her voice.

"Sweet Apple Acres," Applejack answered. "Besides, don't you wanna thank Big Mac? He's the one who found you and likely saved your life."

"Yeah," Rainbow nodded. "I guess."

"Then let's go."

They parted ways from their friends and headed off in the direction of the massive orchard. Rainbow Dash hovered inches off the ground, moving along at Applejack's relatively slow pace. As they crossed through Ponyville, she watched its residents go about their daily routines as normal, implying that nothing of particular note had happened in the brief time she had spent in the coma. Many of the residents acknowledged her as she passed by, offering their congrats on her quick recovery (they had heard about her coma from Mayor Mare). However, the more this happened, the more Rainbow felt herself growing uncomfortable. Though she was certainly used to this kind of attention, it had usually come in the form of praise for her heroic or impressive feats, and there was something decidedly unnerving about receiving attention in the form of deep concern for her well-being and appreciation that she was still alive.

As they passed by Daisy, Lily, and Roseluck's flower shop, Rainbow Dash came to a sudden halt. She noticed that the flowers at Lily's outdoor stall were pink-and-purple petunias and yellow-and-white daffodils, yet she recalled that last time she had seen the stall back on Saturday, she was selling hyacinths and carnations of multiple colors. The selection usually changed every few days as new, fully-grown flowers were plucked from their gardens, replacing the flowers that had been sold. A sudden, intense chill spread through Rainbow's bones as she imagined the notion that the petunias and daffodils could have only been mere seedlings the last time she was conscious, and yet now they were fully-grown flowers ready to sell. Was a mere 24 hours really all the time her coma took from her? How much time did she really lose? What else could have transpired in that one day she was unconscious in a hospital bed? Rainbow instantly felt sorrow for ponies who remained in comas for months, even years. What would the experience of waking up after missing out on so much life be like? She did not even want to imagine how horrible it would be...

Rainbow Dash instinctively floated over to Lily's stall, forcing Applejack to stop and watch her with a confusion-riddled stare.

"Rainbow Dash!" Lily exclaimed upon seeing her. "My goodness, I heard you were in a coma!"

"I was," Rainbow said with an uncomfortable nod. "It was...just a quick thing."

"Well, I'm glad you're alright," Lily smiled. "Go ahead and pick a few. Consider it a recovery gift."

"Thanks," said Rainbow. "Umm...how long ago were these picked?"

"Just yesterday," Lily answered with content. "They're nice, aren't they?"

Rainbow Dash scanned through the flowers, her eyes downcast. They were only the tiniest example of life that had gone on while she may as well have not even existed—life that she had missed out on.

On the far left side of the stall, Rainbow saw a daffodil standing out from its cluster. Its petals were bright yellow like those around it, but its corona was a deep, blood red instead of white. It was like an uncommon spring gem which was unsuccessfully trying to hide itself among flowers it did not blend in with.

"I'll...take that one," Rainbow said, pointing at it.

"You can have another," said Lily as she carefully removed it from the cluster.

"No, this is enough," Rainbow replied appreciatively. "Thanks."

Lily passed the flower into Rainbow's hooves, and she floated back over to where Applejack was waiting.

"I really was lucky, wasn't I?" Rainbow asked as she stared at the daffodil, voice heavy with sorrow.

"We were lucky," corrected Applejack. "We had to wait hours to find out about your condition. We didn't know if you would even live."

Rainbow's ears dropped. "I'm sorry..."

"No use worryin' about it now," replied Applejack. "I jus' hope you get your memory back."

Feeling the slightest twinge of embarrassment, Rainbow carefully stuck the stem in her mane, twisting it around the strands so that the daffodil sat locked in place between the orange and yellow colors at the top of her head. It was a symbol of the time she lost, the single day of life she missed out on, and the grief she had finally come to accept.

"It looks nice on you," Applejack complimented.

Rainbow blushed. "That's not why I....nevermind. Let's just keep going."

They continued onward, eventually passing by the Ponyville schoolhouse. Rainbow Dash almost instantly realized that Scootaloo was most likely inside at that very moment.

"Say...uhh...did Scootaloo know I was in a coma?" she asked.

Applejack's pace slowed. She had figured that it was only a matter of time before Rainbow asked about Scootaloo, and she still had not yet decided whether she was going to lie for her or not.

"She did," Applejack answered hesitantly.

"Oh," said Rainbow. "Did she....come visit me?"

Applejack now came to a complete stop, staring down apprehensively at the dirt road ahead of her as though scanning it to find the correct response. Though she had no desire to lie, she still could not help but feel that Scootaloo's reasoning for wanting her to do so was as solid as an iron plow.


"Is there some reason why you'd think she wouldn't visit you?" Applejack asked, prolonging her answer.

"Umm, well....from what I remember about our last conversation, I'm not really sure," Rainbow replied, hanging her head.

Applejack let out a sigh, realizing that she lacked the ability to make Rainbow feel any worse than she already did.

"Yer just gonna hafta ask her."

"Oh. So that's a 'no', then," Rainbow replied with a disappointed sigh.

"You'll just hafta ask her," Applejack repeated, continuing to walk.

Rainbow continued on as well, looking solemnly at the schoolhouse until it was no longer in sight.


Finally, Applejack and Rainbow Dash crossed beyond the borders of Ponyville and grassy, green fields full of apple trees soon dominated their surroundings. Rainbow searched through her memories again as she looked around the orchard, attempting to find any lingering trace of her apparent crash. The last notable time she remembered being at Sweet Apple Acres was when Applejack was having problems with vampire fruit bats, and beyond that, she remembered flying high above it several different times on several different days for weather-related purposes. But as she expected, her memory maintained no image of a crash taking place there, nor did it maintain the feeling of any physical pain associated with the crash.

As they approached the barn, they saw that Big Mac was just outside, gathering apples up into a cart, most likely in preparation to deliver them to a buyer.

"Hey, big brother. Look who's up and at 'em!" exclaimed Applejack as they came within speaking distance, motioning her head towards Rainbow.

"Uhh, hey, Big Mac," Rainbow said, embarrassed. "Thanks for what you did. I probably wouldn't be here if you hadn't found me."

Big Mac bowed his head. "Eeyup."

"Yeah, so...uhh...I owe you one," Rainbow Dash replied, and extended her hoof out towards him.

After a moment, Big Mac extended his own hoof and lightly tapped it against Rainbows, unamused by how much it dwarfed her own.

"Are you deliverin' that order from Ponyville Retirement Village, Big Mac?" Applejack asked, motioning towards the cart.


"Well, we'll letcha get to it," said Applejack.

Big Mac fastened himself the front of the cart and, with another slight nod towards Rainbow Dash, he exited the borders of Sweet Apple Acres and into Ponyville.

"So...what did you want to show me?" Rainbow Dash asked once he was gone.

"Follow me," Applejack replied.

They moved northward, past the barn, the apple storehouses, and eventually over a tall hill beyond which nothing but innumerable rows apple trees lay for what seemed like miles. Though she had flown over it several times, Rainbow Dash had never truly realized just how enormous Sweet Apple Acres was. She surmised that it had to be at least three quarters the size of Cloudsdale.

After ten silent minutes of walking north, they cut sharply to the right and climbed up another small, isolated hill where two curved, leg-high stones sat at its peak, just six inches apart from each other.

"We're here," said Applejack.

Rainbow Dash knew immediately what the stones represented.

"So....this is where your parents are..."

"Yep," said Applejack, removing her hat.

Rainbow lowered herself to the ground. "This is what you wanted to show me?"

"Well, not only this," replied Applejack. "In the years after they died, I usually came down here to talk to them. I'd tell them things like how much Apple Bloom was growin', how the orchard's doin', how the last reunion went—anythin' I thought they would have wanted to know. I would try to imagine how they would reply. I would come up with replies in my head, and respond to 'em until we were having a whole conversation. I haven't done it in a long while now 'cause...." She allowed a tear to escape from her left eye. "....it's become harder and harder to remember what their voices sound like."

"I'm sorry..." Rainbow said tenderly.

"Anyway, I've brought you here so that you could try it yourself with your dad," said Applejack, returning her hat to her head. "You could start by tellin' him how much it hurt you that he never told you 'bout his illness."

Rainbow sighed. "I don't know, Applejack. This has never really been....my thing."

"I understand that it won't feel as natural to you since your parents ain't buried here," acknowledged Applejack. "But when nopony is around, I find that this hill is one of the most peaceful places in all of Ponyville. Maybe you'll still feel a connection to him."

Rainbow Dash glanced briefly at the gravestones and shook her head.

"This just isn't my thing. I'm sorry to say it, but all I'd be doing is talking to a couple of stones. Trust me, my dad always tried to get me to talk to my mom's gravestone the way he did, but I just never really felt any connection at all."

Applejack said nothing for a moment, thinking on Rainbow's words.

"Just try closin' your eyes. Don't think about the stones."

Rainbow shook her head. "Applejack..."

"C'mon. Just give it a try."

Letting out a sigh of both annoyance and frustration, Rainbow allowed her eyelids to drop down over her eyes.

"Now imagine your dad is standin' right in front of you," said Applejack. "Recall as many of his features as you can."

Rainbow Dash pictured her father standing brightly against the blackness of her closed eyes. The expression on his face was vaguely indescribable; it appeared to express neither disappointment or shame, nor did it express anger or contempt. It was serious, yet not overbearingly so. Rainbow's breathing slowed as she looked into his eyes, startled by how vividly her mind had managed to create him.

"Now, imagine he speaks to you," said Applejack. "Imagine his voice in your head, as best you can remember it."

Rainbow Dash did not have the slightest clue of what to make him say. She rolled her eyes from within her eyelids and came up with the most basic thing she could.

"Hi," he said with a sense of disinterest, his voice as accurate as she last recalled it.

"Now, reply out loud," said Applejack, after giving Rainbow a silent moment to come up with something for him to say. "Then keep on goin' back 'n forth 'til you don't have anythin' else to talk about. I'll leave you alone for now."

"You can stay, Applejack," said Rainbow, her eyes remaining closed. "I don't mind."

Applejack shook her head, even though Rainbow could not see her do so. "No. This is all about you and him, and what you tell him ain't for my ears to hear. I'll stay close by."

With that, Applejack trotted back down the hill, planting herself against the base of a tree nearly twenty feet away. Rainbow felt the daffodil's petals brushing against her mane as a light wind picked up. She took a deep breath and attempted to imagine words emerging from her father's mouth—words sourced from her own personal thoughts and feelings.

"It's too late now, isn't it?" her father asked solemnly.

"Yeah, it is," said Rainbow, feeling slightly embarrassed at speaking so sincerely at nothing. "I wish you had told me."

"I didn't think you would have cared," her father replied.

"I would have," Rainbow said silently. "I would have come back if I had known. I would have been there."

"It doesn't matter now," he said silently, and Rainbow watched his ears wilt.

"Maybe it doesn't," replied Rainbow with a sigh. "But for the rest of my life, I'm going to know that I only didn't see you again because you didn't bother to tell me that you were in the hospital. And somehow, I'm supposed to live with that."

Her father looked away, and no further response emerged from his mouth.

"By the way, I can do a Sonic Rainboom whenever I want to now," Rainbow said, and she visualized her father looking back at her. "You know, the thing that you always told me I would never be able to do again? I can even do it flying up as well as down. How does that make you feel?"

He was silent for a while, mostly due to Rainbow's own uncertainty of how he would realistically respond to such a statement. His expression suggested that he remained unimpressed.

"I guess you didn't expect that you fathered one of the greatest flyers in Equestria, did you?" said Rainbow, giving up trying to come up with a response for him.

He shook his head, saying nothing.

"That not good enough for you?" Rainbow asked bitterly. "Well, I'm also in the Wonderbolts now, too. Well, in the reserves, but still. I've made it. So that's two things that I've done that you always said I would never be able to do."

"I see," her father said with a nod, still not appearing impressed at his daughter's feats. Rainbow sighed and said nothing for a while.

"Would....would mom be proud of me?" she asked spontaneously, feeling tears welling from within her closed eyes.

He nodded. "Yes, she would."

Rainbow Dash smiled to herself. "Well, at least one of my parents would have been."

"Have you read my letter yet?" he asked suddenly, ignoring her.

"No," she answered, as though it was an answer he expected.

"Are you going to?" he asked.

"I don't know. Maybe."

"Please read it," he said with a frown.

"Fine," said Rainbow, annoyed. "But I'm only going to read it when I'm ready to read it. And don't know when that'll be."

He nodded his head, saying nothing more again.

Feeling that their brief talk was now over, Rainbow Dash opened her eyes again, and the image of her father disappeared, replaced by the sight of the two curved stones. She turned away and glided down to Applejack at the bottom of the hill.

"So? Did that help at all?" Applejack asked, surprised by how quickly her talk was over.

Rainbow let out a hesitant sigh. "I...felt a little connection. But I wish I knew what he'd really say to me. I just don't know what he'd really say to most of the things I want to talk to him about."

"D'you think there might be some way you could find out?" asked Applejack. "Perhaps by talkin' to somepony close to him?"

"Maybe," Rainbow said, instantly remembering Wind Lily. "Thanks for showing me this, Applejack."

Applejack stared at her wordlessly for a few brief seconds.

"Rainbow, do you remember when I allowed you and our friends to help out against my family's challenge against Flim and Flam?" she asked.

"Uhh...yeah," Rainbow Dash said with a nod, unsure of why she was bringing this up.

"Do you remember what I said when I did?"

"Uhh..." Rainbow searched through her memory, recalling as much of that day as she could, but Applejack's words were all but lost.

"I said, 'I'd love to have the rest of my family helpin' out.' And I meant that," said Applejack. "We're all family, Rainbow Dash, in every way 'cept blood. We share each other's pain, and we comfort each other through it. So please don't hide your pain from us anymore. It's our pain, too. Whether you want it to be or not."

Rainbow Dash nodded slowly, her feelings of foolishness weighing down her face. She trembled at the thought that she could have come close to losing her friends over her decision to shut them out. She needed each and every one of them now—and that was something she was absolutely certain of.


"I just hope you understand that," replied Applejack, lightly touching Rainbow's shoulder.

"I...I'd really like to go for that fly now," Rainbow said with discomfort, hoping that the wind brushing against her skin would help to ease her overwhelming guilt and sorrow.

"You be careful, ya hear?" said Applejack.

"I will."

Applejack watched as Rainbow Dash opened her wings and leapt into the sky, zooming forward until she was completely out of sight, her rainbow trail following close behind her. The daffodil failed to stay in place against the sudden speed, and it abandoned Rainbow's mane, falling slowly down to earth until it landed right at Applejack's hooves.

Chapter 10 -- Home Again

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Rainbow's flight lasted for several hours, stretching on past the afternoon and finally coming to an end when the sun's golden hue gradually faded to orange. Her wings carried her beyond the borders of Ponyville, over the Everfree Forest, the Pie family rock farm, and almost all the way to Appleoosa. The empty, open sky was a blissful liberation from the seemingly endless pity smothering she had endured over the last few hours as everything came crashing down on top of her. All the while, her thoughts centered upon the unpleasant events of the last few days, all of which now made her feel incredibly thoughtless—how she had returned to her old home and left it again bitterly, how she had struggled to hide her father's death from her friends, and how she had repeatedly insisted that his passing would have little effect on her. But above all else, Scootaloo was at the forefront of her mind, as Rainbow was still deeply concerned at the notion that the news of her coma did not inspire a visit from her. Was she really that angry? Was she truly that determined to sever their relationship and cut Rainbow out of her life?

As the evening sun continued to sink out of sight, Rainbow Dash returned to Ponyville and landed just outside of Scootaloo's house, several feet away from the front door. She exhaled a deep breath which emerged like an icy mist, discharging a small fraction of the nervousness and discomfort that was just beginning to overtake her insides.

"Okay," Rainbow said to herself in a futile effort to dispel her nervousness. "'Hi, Scootaloo, I'm really sorry I—.' No, that won't work...."

She paused in silence for several seconds, eyes fixed upon the door, prepared to disappear into the sky if it showed even the vaguest indication of opening.

"'Hi, Scoot. You probably heard I was in a coma, and I just wanted to let you know that I'm okay now. I'm sorry if I made you worry, but—.'" She stopped herself again, shaking her head as she realized that there was no point in pretending that she was unaware that Scootaloo knew about her coma. She paused again, attempting to imagine Scootaloo's scorned face glaring at her as she continued to stare unblinkingly at the door.

"'Hey, Scoot, I just wanted to let you know that I'm okay now....you know, if you care, that is.'"

Rainbow Dash felt her stomach sink down endlessly as those final words passed from her tongue. With a sigh, she spread her wings open and vanished from the spot, now fully understanding that she did not know how to even begin repairing her relationship with Scootaloo...or if it was even possible at all.


As with each and every evening, Celestia's sun was gradually lowered while Luna's moon replaced its spot in the sky, signifying the close of another day. Yet Rainbow Dash was unusually struck with the sensation that she had not seen the moon in a very long time. The effects of her coma still weighed heavily on her mind, and with the temporary diversion of her flight now over, the chilling realization that she could have remained unconscious for years, or perhaps even lost her life, had returned to crash down hard upon her.

Rainbow was seated at her kitchen table which was now clean of the empty cider bottles that had littered it since Monday. There was nothing in front of her—no food or drink of any sort, just a flat, empty surface from which she could just barely see her own reflection gleaming off of it. Her stomach grumbled loudly to imply hunger, but the notion that she had managed to drive Scootaloo away, just as Rainbow's own father had done to her, was enough to sap away any willpower she had to eat. Rainbow had spent nearly her whole life believing that she and her father were two entirely different ponies, yet she now felt that they probably had more in common than she expected...

From outside the nearby window, her peripheral vision suddenly caught an obscure glimpse of somepony landing on her doorstep. The outside darkness coupled with the lack of clarity of her corner vision made Rainbow unable to identify the pony on sight, though regardless of who it was, she did not quite feel like having any visitors at the moment. She sighed at the knock on her door that came moments later, and after letting out an annoyed groan of the deepest reluctance, she rose up from the table to answer it.

"Hi, Rainbow Dash," greeted Fluttershy when Rainbow opened the door.

"Uhh...hey," replied Rainbow with sudden apprehension. "What's up?"

"Well, if you don't mind, I'd like to stay with you tonight," Fluttershy said at once. "I don't think I'm ready to leave you by yourself overnight."

Rainbow blinked, groaning again from within her mind. "Uhhh....I think I'll be fine, Fluttershy."

"Well, all the same, I'd rather know that for myself," replied Fluttershy. "So may I come in?"

Rainbow nodded reluctantly and allowed her to enter. Almost instantly, Fluttershy looked around the cloud home as though expecting to find something to be alarmed about.

"How are you feeling?" she asked after her brief scan turned up nothing out of the ordinary.

"I'm....well, I don't really know," Rainbow replied, shaking her head. "I wish so much that I could go back in time and just start this whole week over."

"So do I," replied Fluttershy, frowning. "I wanted to apologize to you for telling our friends about your relationship with your dad. I know you trusted me to keep it to myself, but they were desperate for any information that could have possibly led to your coma, and I had assumed that you would mention it anyway once you found out that we knew about his death. But that was before I knew that you weren't ever planning on telling us that he died..."

"It doesn't matter," said Rainbow. "I guess there wasn't much point in keeping it from them anymore, anyway."

"Honestly, Rainbow Dash, how long did you really think you had before I found out?" asked Fluttershy, raising an eyebrow. "And what would you have said when I eventually asked about your reunion? Were you just going to lie to me about seeing him again?"

Rainbow dropped her head with a sigh. "I don't know. I didn't think that far ahead."

"You know, I wouldn't have told them about his death if you didn't want me to," said Fluttershy. "I would have kept it to myself until you were ready."

"I know that," Rainbow replied, nodding slowly. "But you were the one I wanted to keep it from the most. I guess I just felt too ashamed to tell you."

"Well, believe me when I say that I am truly sorry that you never got to see him again," said Fluttershy, placing a hoof around Rainbow's neck.

"Yeah...me too."

"By the way, I wanted to ask you if you would allow me to speak at his funeral," said Fluttershy.

"But you didn't know him," replied Rainbow, staring at her with confusion.

"I know, but I still want to do it anyway," said Fluttershy. "You know, if it's okay with you."

"Uhh...yeah, sure," Rainbow said, nodding.

"Thanks," Fluttershy said with a smile. "I really think you'll like what I have to say."

A momentary silence fell between them, and Rainbow found herself cracking a smile now that the tension that had been present between her and Fluttershy earlier had finally dissipated.

"Do you think you could do me a favor?" Rainbow asked suddenly.

"Sure. What do you need?" Fluttershy said with curiosity.

"Follow me."

Their wings lifted them up the stairs and they floated into Rainbow's bedroom, where a soft breeze swept through the still-open window and caused her wall posters and bedsheets to flail slightly. Rainbow Dash approached the bedside table to pick up the half-open envelope, then she held it in front of Fluttershy, who eyed it with curiosity.

"This is a letter my dad wrote to me just before he died. I haven't read it yet because I'm really worried about what it says, and I really don't know how I'll feel after reading it. I don't know whether he's going to tell me that he's sorry for driving me away, or if he's just going to remind me again that I'll never become a Wonderbolt. Could you read it to yourself and tell me whether or not I would want to know what it says?"

Fluttershy instantly stared back at Rainbow Dash, eyes widened as though she had just heard her confess to an unspeakable crime.

"I...I can't do that..."

"Yes, you can," Rainbow said with an urging nod. "It doesn't bother me, really."

"No, I can't," Fluttershy replied, backing away from the envelope as though under the belief that just being near it would cause her to contract a fatal disease. "I just can't do that."

Rainbow Dash expelled a sigh that came out like a groan. "Why not? It's really not that big a deal. Just read it to yourself. I don't want you to tell me what it says, I just want to know if I would want to know what it says."

"Rainbow Dash, whatever is written in that letter isn't for me," replied Fluttershy. "It's for you. And I don't want to read something that was never meant for me to read."

Rainbow sighed again, her eyes glistening with an unmistakable desperation. "Please, Fluttershy. I really need this..."

Fluttershy shook her head, and her eyes fell shut so as to not see the disappointment in Rainbow's face. "I'm sorry. You're just going to have to read it yourself."

"Then I'm not going to read it!" Rainbow cried, throwing the envelope back down onto the bedside table.

"Rainbow Dash..."

"There's no point!" Rainbow cried. "It's not like it'll change anything. And even if I actually like what it says, I won't be able to reply, and I won't be able to take anything back."

"But you have to read it," squeaked Fluttershy. "It's his final words to you, and you can't just ignore them..."

"Well, there isn't much he could tell me that I'd want to hear," Rainbow replied, glaring down at the envelope. "Even if he doesn't run my dream into the ground again, he'll probably just try to make me regret not coming back. And I really don't want him to make me feel worse."

"Rainbow Dash, don't you think it's possible that you might be wrong?" asked Fluttershy. "I may not have known him, but I'd still doubt that the last thing he'd want to do while lying on his deathbed is make you feel bad about yourself."

"I don't know," Rainbow said after a brief silence. "But I'm going to find out..."

"Does that mean you're going to read it now?" asked Fluttershy.

Rainbow Dash shook her head. "I'm going back to Cloudsdale tomorrow. There's only one pony who I think would know what the letter says. She's somepony dad grew close to after I left."

"Oh. Well, umm, okay," said Fluttershy. "I hope she tells you what you're not expecting to hear."

"So do I..."

Rainbow Dash stared down at the envelope, squinting her eyes at the written words, To my daughter, Rainbow Dash on its back just before another strong, cool breeze passed through the window and brushed it off the table, causing it to fall to the floor in slow motion.


The next morning, after the sun was raised halfway to its noon-level height, Rainbow Dash emerged from the front door of her home, spread her wings open, and headed off towards Cloudsdale. The blinding beams of sunlight almost instantly stung her baggy, exhausted eyes; she had scarcely received any sleep throughout the night, as her persistent thoughts had once more refused to allow her mind rest. Fluttershy, however, had eventually slipped from consciousness while sitting against Rainbow's bed, attempting to ensure that she did not leave the room. The two ponies eventually sat down to a light breakfast of eggs and toast, though the anxious feeling creeping through Rainbow's stomach did not allow her to swallow more than a few isolated bites.

"If you need me to go with you, I will," Fluttershy had said as Rainbow abandoned her breakfast and prepared to leave.

"No, I'll be fine," Rainbow replied. "Uhhh, thanks for staying with me. You really didn't have to do that."

Fluttershy smiled. "What are friends for?"

Rainbow Dash had found herself surprised at how much she had come to appreciate Fluttershy's company. They had talked long into the night, and the therapeutic nature of Fluttershy's comforting words coupled with her always-tender and delicate voice made Rainbow unusually glad that her father's death was no longer a secret.

The morning air was chilly enough to cause Rainbow to shiver as she flew steadily against a light wind that was whipping swiftly through her mane and tail. She could hardly believe that she was on her way to visit Wind Lily again, and given the less-than-favorable manner by which their first meeting had ended, she felt highly uncomfortable about it. If there was one thing she hated more than losing, it was admitting that she was wrong, and she could never forget the condescending attitude her father had displayed on the day she had finally realized that her first Sonic Rainboom had indeed been a fluke which would likely never occur again. Would Wind Lily also display such an attitude now that her assertion about how much of a mistake it was for Rainbow to hide his death from her friends had been proven correct?

Before another hour came to a close, Rainbow Dash soared into great sky city, narrowly passing by the small clouds that the Weather Factory's cloud-maker churned out every two seconds. She zipped over the hundreds of similar-looking cloud homes of the residential area and soon arrived again at 146 Cloud Drop Lane. Before she had a chance to stop herself, Rainbow knocked swiftly upon the front door, and Wind Lily's eyes spread wide open at the sight of her visitor as she opened it.

"Rainbow Dash?"

"Hi..." Rainbow said, instantly feeling embarrassed.

"I wasn't expecting to see you until the funeral," Wind Lily said, her voice carrying a noticeable sense of disbelief. "What can I do for you?"

"I...I need to talk to you," said Rainbow Dash.

Wind Lily stared at her blankly for a few seconds, then smiled warmly. "Of course. Come inside."

Rainbow stepped over the threshold of the small cloud home. As they walked back into the kitchen where they had spoken the first time, she noticed that there were several large, brown boxes scattered throughout the foyer and living room, some with their top flaps open, slightly exposing their contents, and others with their top flaps closed and sealed off with tape. There were several more boxes in the kitchen, littering the floor around the kitchen table, with two smaller boxes sitting on the counter.

"Please excuse the mess," said Wind Lily as she took a seat at the table. "I'm hoping to move into your old house by the end of next week. Unless....I really hope you're not here to tell me that you don't want to give it up after all..."

Rainbow Dash shook her head as she sat down at the opposite seat. "No, the house is still yours."

"Well, that's good to hear," said Wind Lily, smiling with relief. "Unfortunately, I've already packed up my stock of tea, so I can't offer you any. However, if you're thirsty, I could get you some water."

"No, I'm fine, thanks," stated Rainbow, shaking her head.

"Okay, then," replied Wind Lily. "So how do we find you? Last time I saw you, I do believe you were telling me that you weren't some little orphan filly who needed to be coddled, or something to that effect."

Rainbow stared down at the kitchen table, again struggling to see her reflection. "Things have...changed."

"Well, I can't say I'm not glad to hear that," said Wind Lily. "Assuming that they have changed for the better, that is..."

"The truth is, I've had a really lousy week," said Rainbow. "Like, really lousy. I just woke up from a coma yesterday."

Wind Lily's eyes widened at once. "What?"

"Yeah, it's true," Rainbow said, nodding. "It's a long story, but shortly after I left here last time, I apparently crashed or something and I ended up in a coma for a day. I still don't really remember much about what happened."

"Oh, my goodness!" cried Wind Lily, shaking her head in disbelief. "Are you all right?!"

"No, I'm not," Rainbow said with a sigh. "Because you were right. I never should have hidden his death from my friends. Now it just feels like my life is spiraling all over the place and I don't know how to stop it. I don't know where to even begin..."

"Well, I'm very sorry to hear that, Rainbow Dash," said Wind Lily with a mournful frown. "How can I help you?"

"I want you to talk to me about him," said Rainbow Dash, thankful that she had not received any condescending response as she had feared. "I want to know what his feelings towards me were these last five years."

Wind Lily nodded in understanding. "Very well. Where should I start?"

"Well, first, how did you get in touch with him again?" asked Rainbow.

Wind Lily rubbed her chin in thought for a few seconds, appearing to be searching deeply within her memories. Rainbow awaited her response with a nervous sensation tingling at her insides, unaware of what she would be told over the course of the next several minutes and how she would feel about it.

"Well, we happened to bump into each other one day at the annual Wonderbolts Air Show in the Cloudiseum. He had shown up late and was still looking for a place to sit when he eventually came across a booth where I was sitting, and after we had acknowledged each other with a greeting, he just took a seat next to me. It certainly wasn't the first time we had seen each other since I had stopped foalsitting you, but this time, he actually wanted to have a lengthy conversation, as though we were two old friends who had just been reunited after years apart. By that time, I think you had been gone for a few months, and I imagine that he was probably feeling lonely and was just really desperate for a friend. I thought it was somewhat unusual that he wanted to strike up a friendship all of a sudden, since in all the time that I had been your caretaker on a daily basis, he had barely seemed interested in starting any kind of relationship. But we started talking for a while, and once the show was over, we decided to meet each other again for dinner the next evening. And our relationship just kind of blossomed out from there."

Rainbow Dash fidgeted in her seat. "Uh...was your relationship with him....uhhh....did it ever....?"

"Are you trying to ask if it ever turned romantic?" Wind Lily said with a chuckle. "No, it didn't. But that isn't to suggest that I would have been disinterested in a romantic relationship. I would have at least been open to giving it a chance, but your father was the one who didn't seem interested. Perhaps he just couldn't see himself falling in love again. I'm not really sure. We never discussed it."

Rainbow Dash shifted her mouth sideways, feeling a wave of discomfort smother her at the thought that Wind Lily could have potentially become her step-mother.

"I asked about you during that first meeting, but he simply changed the subject, and it remained that way for months," continued Wind Lily. "He never really wanted to talk about you. Whenever you were brought up, he would just kind of change the subject or deflect my questions. It was so persistent that after a while, I had actually assumed that you had died somehow. However, since I was too uneasy about asking him directly, I eventually just stopped bringing you up and simply waited for the day when he would tell me himself. Our relationship went on—we often went to dinner or lunch together every week, took a few trips, and did just about anything that would have been considered typical for a non-dating pair of friends to do. He never seemed to want to be alone for too long and I would hear from him at least three times a week. Eventually, I began to think that I was his one and only link to happiness. He often seemed a bit depressed, and while he would do his best to hide it when we were together, I would still notice it from time to time. Then one day, about seven or eight months after we began our friendship, he finally began to open up about you.

"If I recall correctly, it was just a few days after Hearth's Warming. I think the reason he decided to open up then was because he was surprised that you hadn't come home for the holidays. I imagine that it was probably the first time he realized just how serious you were about not seeing him again until you were a Wonderbolt. On this particular day, he was doing a poor job of hiding his depression, and so I asked him what was bothering him. And just like that, he began to talk about you. He told me about your dream of becoming a Wonderbolt and how much he had wished that you had pursued a different career since he thought that you were just setting yourself up for disappointment. He told me that you had left on your birthday and that he hadn't seen you since and didn't know when he would see you again. After I had heard the entire story, I understood why you wanted to leave. I really did. However, I certainly didn't expect that you'd be gone for as long as five years. He never explicitly stated that he missed you, at least not that I can recall, but I could easily tell that he did. He seemed to always run away from his feelings, and never really wanted to come to terms with them. I really think he wanted you back in his life by that point."

She paused momentarily, and Rainbow Dash closed her eyes and briefly thought of the mental conversation she had with her father the previous day, instantly recalling the first thing he had said to her: "It's too late now, isn't it?" She slowly and mournfully nodded her head in reply.

"Even though I did mostly see it as his fault that you left, I didn't really want to place too much blame on him," said Wind Lily, and Rainbow opened her eyes again. "He really seemed to show a lot of regret for how he had treated you and how he had stomped on your dreams. I really couldn't say much, mostly because I hadn't met you and thus hadn't received your side of the story, so I just ensured him that you would probably come back someday, even if it was before you became a Wonderbolt. That thought seemed to satisfy him for the time being. However, within the next few months, your birthday came again, and once again, he couldn't hide his depression. It had now been a year since he had last seen you, and he had expected that you might come back on that day. I wasn't sure of how to console him, so what I ended up telling him then was that I would do whatever I could to find you, even if it meant searching all over Equestria. I would track you down somehow and try to persuade you to pay him a visit. However, to my surprise, he actually declined that offer. The reason he gave was that he was going to allow you to live your life without him since that was what you apparently wanted. However, thinking back, it may have just been because he didn't want to give you the satisfaction of letting you know that he missed you. I guess it's easy to see who you get your stubbornness from, huh?"

She chuckled to herself while Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes with annoyance.

"In any case, I think it got easier for him as time went on," Wind Lily resumed. "Soon we were at another Hearth's Warming, and then your birthday passed yet again. And each time they did, he seemed to become less and less upset about it. However, that isn't to say he didn't still show signs that he missed you. He would still bring you up every now and then, and whenever he did, his tone of voice would noticeably become a bit softer and more sorrowful. I kept telling him that my offer to track you down still stood, but he still refused to accept it. Then, before either of us had known it, five years had passed."

She paused again, looking down at the table as though expecting for a moment to see a drink sitting in front of her to wash away her drying throat. Once realizing that it was not there, she stood herself up from the table, grabbed a clear, plastic cup from inside an open box on the counter and filled it up with water from the sink.

"Are you sure you don't want any water?" she asked Rainbow before taking a drink.

"I'm good," Rainbow replied silently, still remaining undecided towards whether or not she was going to read her father's letter. When she was sufficiently hydrated again, Wind Lily floated back over to the kitchen table and returned to her seat.

"So...he never told you that he missed me? Not even once?" Rainbow asked in a solemn voice.

"Well, as I said, he was always very discreet about the subject of you," answered Lily. "He never explicitly stated that he missed you, but it was always obvious to me in his tone of voice and his expressions. But even if I had asked him, he probably would have denied it. He just didn't seem to want to come to terms with the reality that he had successfully managed to remove you from his life."

"So then why did my leaving get easier for him as time went on?" Rainbow asked.

"If I had to guess, it might be because he probably came to accept that you wouldn't be gone forever. Maybe he came to the conclusion that you were probably happier without him in your life, and that he had no good reason to force his way back into it."

Rainbow's ears lowered. "Oh..."

"I know something that might interest you," said Wind Lily. "During last year's Best Young Flyer Competition, news quickly spread around Cloudsdale that the winner of the event had performed a Sonic Rainboom, and he knew instantly that it was you."

"Yeah, it was me," Rainbow replied, barely suppressing a prideful smirk.

"I have to say, I had never seen him talk about you as pridefully as he had on that day," said Wind Lily. "He flew around the entire neighborhood, crying out that it was none other than Rainbow Dash who had performed that Rainboom. It was as though he wanted to make sure that everypony in Cloudsdale knew it."

"Really?!" Rainbow said, her eyes widened in an incredulous stare. "The same pony who always told me that I would never do a Sonic Rainboom ever again was actually proud of me for doing one?!"

"He sure was," said Wind Lily, smiling as she nodded. "As a matter of fact, he even admitted that he had been wrong for telling you that you would never pull it off again for all those years."

"Well, that doesn't sound like him at all," said Rainbow with a scoff.

"Well, it's true," replied Wind Lily. "He was quite proud of the fact that his daughter had turned out to be quite the prodigious flyer. I think he even half-expected you to pay him a visit if for no other reason than to rub it in his face."

Rainbow frowned and closed her eyes. "I actually considered doing that, but I just didn't think he would have been impressed. In fact, I even thought that he'd probably deny that I was the one who did it."

"Well, that's a shame," said Wind Lily. "Because after a few days had passed, he once again seemed unable to hide his disappointment at the fact that you never showed up. I don't think he even cared that he would be called out for being wrong, just as long as he finally got to see you again."

Rainbow Dash sighed apprehensively, falling into a momentary silence.

"You told me before that....he decided not to tell me he was in the hospital because he thought I wouldn't care, right?"

Wind Lily looked down at the table, and her eyes appeared to moisten over slightly as tears began to reach them.

"As I've said before, we didn't know at the time just how bad his condition was," she said. "His cough seemed pretty bad, but I didn't think it was anything more serious than flu symptoms. Neither of us could have expected that it was going to claim his life. I'm sure that had he known, he'd have wanted you to be there. I would imagine that the letter he left for you is all the evidence to confirm that. By the way, have you read it yet?"

"Not yet," Rainbow answered, her head shaking slowly. "I...I'm just not sure if I can."

"I can understand your hesitation," said Wind Lily, looking back at her again. "But I fear that you won't feel any closure until you do."

"What do you think it says?" asked Rainbow, staring hard at her.

Wind Lily fell silent for a long time, her eyes shifting all over the kitchen as she descended into thought.

"I'd like to tell you that it says that he regrets not letting you know about his illness, that he wishes he could have seen you again, and that he wishes you a wonderful and prosperous life and that you make it into the Wonderbolts one day. But I don't know for sure. The truth is that there's only one way to find out."

Rainbow Dash felt a tear drop from her left eye, splashing silently upon the table, followed quickly by another from her right eye. If that was truly what the letter said, she would still be unable to bear reading it. It would still cause her regret for the rest of her life...

"I'm truly sorry," said Wind Lily, frowning solemnly. "I don't know what to tell you except to just read it when you're ready to read it. There's no hurry."

"I'm just....I'm just so afraid to miss him," Rainbow said, wiping her eyes before any more tears could fall. "I don't want to miss him. I just want him to still be at home waiting for me. Why couldn't he just wait a little longer...?"

"Well, if it'll make you feel any better, I'll be there," said Wind Lily, attempting to suppress her own tears. "I know it won't be the same, but you could pay me a visit once you're wearing your Wonderbolt uniform, and I'll be there."

"Thanks," Rainbow said, smiling faintly in appreciation of the gesture. "Hey, umm, if you don't mind, could I borrow an empty box? Just a small one?"

"Sure," said Wind Lily, wiping her eye to stop a tear before it could fall. "Why do you need it?"

"Because...I'd like to go home again."

Wind Lily nodded her head and smiled. "Of course."


By the time Rainbow Dash left Cloud Drop Lane, the sun had climbed almost directly overhead as the morning steadily transitioned to noon. Cloudsdale's higher altitude always made the sun seem much closer than from the ground, and likewise, its warmth always seemed much more encompassing. Yet the sun's warmth did little to heat Rainbow's chill body as her wings slowly carried her towards her old house again while she held a medium-sized box in her forehooves, ready to fill with items that she no longer wished to leave behind. Her mind was still whizzing around everything Wind Lily had told her. The thought that her father had been awaiting her return came as a genuine surprise after she had convinced herself years ago that he was living a happier life without her. Rainbow briefly wondered to herself whether or not she would have returned to visit him had she known how much he missed her, but she shook her head within seconds, knowing the answer almost instantly. She had decided long ago that there was absolutely no force on Equestria and beyond which would have persuaded her to pay him a visit before she was wearing a Wonderbolt uniform, the only exception being if he had fallen ill or was close to death.

Nevertheless, the revelation that he had missed her provided her with no comfort and instead only left her with a deeper and sharper sting of sorrow, filling her with an even greater dread to read his letter, especially if Wind Lily's prediction of its contents was true.

As Rainbow arrived at her fillyhood home again, she paused outside to stare at its exterior. It was now somewhat humorous to think that just the other day, she had assumed that she had left it behind forever, perfectly satisfied to give it away without taking any of its contents with her. Still, she could not help but think of it as nothing more than a lingering, hollow shell of her past, interwoven with numerous pleasant and unpleasant memories which would never disappear. She was certain that the home now held very little that she actually wanted to take with her, yet she felt it was necessary to go through it anyway. It was only a small step towards moving forward and putting an end to the downward spiral that had consumed her life.

Rainbow Dash's wings lifted her up to the front door and she slowly pushed it open. Just like last time, the feeling of nostalgia instantly overwhelmed her as vivid memories circled around her mind. For all she knew, she could have been returning home after a long day at Flight Camp while her father was in the kitchen, hard at work on the night's dinner...

Floating above the floor as silently as a ghost, she lifted herself up the stairs and entered the hallway leading to both her and her father's bedrooms. She let out a chilled breath as she moved along the hallway to the left, wordlessly collecting the photos that hung upon the walls and placing them into the box without bothering to take the time to stare at them again.

She then made her way into her father's room, which still looked almost exactly the same as she always remembered it—the curtains drawn over the windows as usual, barely allowing any light to enter it. An uncomfortable sensation come over her as she entered the room, and she suddenly felt as though she were a thief in the night, preparing to take items that did not belong to her.

She instantly turned to face the dresser where the five framed photographs still sat upon it as they had for several years, and she began staring at them from left to right.

She cracked a smile as she looked at the first photograph, depicting herself hovering in midair. Of all the pleasant memories that the house held for her, this one was undoubtedly her favorite. She could never forget the bliss that came over her when she had flapped her wings one day, and instead of falling to the ground, she remained hovering. She remembered how her father had ordered her to stay in the air while he rushed to find a camera, not that it was an order she had any trouble following. In that moment, she had felt so convinced that she would likely never use her legs for movement ever again. It was somewhat crazy to think that those same tiny wings which only allowed her to hover in place were able to pull off a Sonic Rainboom merely two years later...

The next picture made her smile fade away. It depicted a happy moment with her father—a memory which now seemed so obscure and distant. She could not quite remember which birthday she was celebrating, however, since she did not have a cutie mark in the photo, she assumed that she was still under the age of ten. Her father had planned a surprise party all by himself, and took obvious pride in the fact that it had managed to go exactly as he had planned. Seeing him smiling at her in the picture had always left Rainbow with an unusual feeling. It always made the photograph seem like nothing more than a hollow glimpse of an alternate life in which she finally had the relationship with her father that she had always longed for...

The centermost picture was the most familiar by far—the one she had spent innumerable hours staring at until its every last detail was etched permanently into her mind. This one photograph was often the only reason why she would ever come into her father's bedroom at all. Rainbow Dash sighed as she stared into her mother's loving face again, and as usual, the question of how different her life would have turned out had she not died crossed her mind. But at the moment, Rainbow was not in any mood to reflect on it again...

Her eyes darted over to the next picture—the one of her first day of school. She chuckled silently to herself as she recalled how repulsed she had been at the notion that she would have to spend several precious hours each day sitting in a classroom to learn when she could have been flying instead. Her father had consoled her by saying that she would able to attend Summer Flight Camp after the school year had ended, which gave her something to look forward to. Nevertheless, he could not help but capture the moment with a picture, even in spite of Rainbow's obvious lack of enthusiasm—or perhaps even because of it...

And at last, she looked over at the final picture—the one that she ultimately came to detest the most, the one depicting the moment that had sparked the beginning of the strained relationship with her father. It was the day she had received her cutie mark—the day she had successfully pulled off a Sonic Rainboom without even trying, the day the Wonderbolts had positioned her within their sights. Her father had been immensely proud of her and could hardly wait to capture her thrill and excitement, blissfully unaware of anything that was to follow. It had never made any sense to Rainbow that in spite of it all, he still saw fit to frame the picture upon his dresser as though it were a memory he wanted to return to each time he saw it. Rainbow shook her head as she stared bitterly into her younger, overjoyed face. She wished she had known back then just how little there was to be happy about...

One by one, Rainbow Dash picked each of the pictures up and placed them into the box lying on top of each other. Their absence made the dresser look unusually bare, and a thick collection of dust was lined where each of them had been sitting. Stepping away from the dresser, Rainbow turned towards the record player and nearby case of albums just behind her. She immediately shook her head coldly.

"I don't think so..." she muttered with an equally cold tone. She had always hated the classical, instrument-heavy music that her father commonly listened to. If Wind Lily wanted the albums, she could have them, though it would not have particularly bothered Rainbow to see them all tossed into the nearest garbage dumpster.

She then looked at the closet at the left corner of the room, and she immediately felt her stomach sink down. The only thing housed in the closet that she knew for sure were her mother's pictures her father had stored away long ago.

With a deep breath, she opened the closet door and was somewhat surprised at how empty it was. A few dress suits and outfits for special occasions were hung up inside, most looking as though they had not been worn in years. On the floor, sitting to the right was a small, rectangular box with a bright, red book sitting on top of it. The book instantly triggered a spark in Rainbow's memory—she recalled seeing it a very long time ago when her father had shown it to her on a day they had visited her mother's grave.

Trembling slightly, Rainbow took the book and opened it, and it contained exactly what she remembered it to contain. Multiple varieties of flowers from each season were folded tenderly and taped into its pages with a brief description for each scrawled in delicate ink. It was her mother's flower book. Rainbow Dash instantly recalled her father saying that flowers were her favorite thing about the ground, and how much she had lamented that they could never grow in Cloudsdale. She had intended to fill the book with every type of flower she could possibly find, and according to her father, she had only managed to collect twenty-two different varieties before she died. At the time she was shown the book, Rainbow did not think that the flowers were anything special, mostly because she was still under the mindset that anything that did not come from Cloudsdale was inferior, yet nevertheless, she was happy to have learned something new about her mother.

Her eyes then trailed over the the small box, the contents of which she had never seen before in her life, which she could only surmise contained the pictures of her mother that she had never seen before. Feeling too apprehensive about opening it to look inside, she simply picked it up and placed it into her medium-sized box, along with the flower book. With that finished, Rainbow Dash exited the room, feeling that there was nothing else worth taking. Everything else was left to Wind Lily to decide whether it would stay or go.

As she descended back down the stairs, she glanced upwards at the clock in the living room. Rainbow immediately dropped the box as a sudden realization struck her. It was almost two in the afternoon, and her Wonderbolts debut, the very thing she had been looking forward to for her entire life, was only a mere twenty-four hours away...

Chapter 11 -- Today They Cry

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"When you become a Wonderbolt, what's the first thing you're going to do?"

The spontaneous question caught Rainbow Dash off-guard, and she rubbed her chin in momentary thought as she watched the aerial acrobatics of those aforesaid ponies, continuing to woo and excite the crowd that filled each and every seat of the Cloudiseum. The Wonderbolts' annual Cloudsdale Air Show was now starting to wrap up, and they had just begun to perform their more risky maneuvers—the ones which always made the crowd howl in utter astonishment. Yet throughout the show, Rainbow Dash could not suppress the bitter feeling tugging at her insides, coldly telling her that several years would likely pass by before she found herself performing alongside them. It had been two years since she had accepted that it would be impossible for her to pull off another Sonic Rainboom, and no further opportunities for membership had since presented themselves to her.

"I dunno, Fluttershy," she said, looking back at her curious friend. "Never thought much about that. But I bet the first thing you're going to do is tell everypony that you're best friends with a Wonderbolt, aren't ya?"

Fluttershy cracked an affirming smile and stared back at the performance in front of her, still vaguely wondering to herself how she had managed to allow Rainbow Dash to drag her to the annual show, which up until now, she had always opted out of attending.

"All these maneuvers are easy as cake!" boasted Rainbow, as she watched the Wonderbolt captain Wind Rider pull off a 900 degree roll through a fast-moving hoop composed of three other Wonderbolts circling around until they appeared as a blue-and-yellow ring.

"Easy for you to say..." Fluttershy replied with a slight frown.

"By the way, thanks for being here with me," Rainbow Dash said. "It's much better than being here alone. My dad never wants to come, especially not since I started trying to get into the Wonderbolts."

"Umm...sure, you're welcome," replied Fluttershy.

"I mean, seriously. I know it's not your thing," Rainbow added. "I really appreciate it."

"What are friends for?" Fluttershy said, smiling warmly.

The aerial show finally came to a close as the six Wonderbolts soared upward and descended again via swirling around each other in three separate pairs, fast enough to leave their vibrant trails behind them, which appeared as spectacular ribbon-like whirlwinds. The crowd roared with praise at the spectacle while Fluttershy closed her eyes and shook her head rapidly—just the sight of it was enough to make her nauseously dizzy.

"That...was...awesome!" Rainbow Dash boasted.

"Yeah....'awesome,'" Fluttershy replied nonchalantly, knowing that she would most likely throw up the popcorn she and Rainbow had shared during the show if she were to see the trick a second time.

With the final trick having been performed, an announcer's microphone-enhanced voice boomed across the stadium, declaring the end of the show while simultaneously thanking the crowd for their attendance. With that, the crowd quickly dispersed, with many choosing to exit the stadium by flying out through its open dome. Almost at once, the Wonderbolts were swarmed with ponies asking for autographs as usual, and Rainbow Dash shook her head in at the scene, just as she did every year. The Wonderbolts were headquartered in Cloudsdale, and anypony could have come in asking for an autograph at any time, yet nopony seemed to ever want one until after they saw their air show.

"One day, Fluttershy," Rainbow said, shaking her head as she watched Wind Rider and the rest of the Wonderbolts quickly sign their names upon loose sheets of paper. "I don't know when, but one day, I'm going to be right up there with them."

"Yeah, one day," Fluttershy repeated with a nod. "Don't you want an autograph?"

"Oh, please," Rainbow replied, rolling her eyes. "I've had their autographs for years now."

They remained in their seats for a few more minutes as the Cloudiseum continued to be cleared of ponies and Rainbow attempted to imagine what it would be like to have swarms of ponies crowding around her, asking for an autograph. It was a experience she hoped she would receive herself someday.

"Well, I guess we better go," Rainbow said, rising from her seat once the Cloudiseum was almost cleared entirely of ponies.

"Umm, Rainbow Dash?" Fluttershy said, stopping her before she could fly off.

Rainbow looked back, instantly noticing that Fluttershy appeared apprehensive, which she had since come to learn was never an indication of any positive news.

"Uh, what's up?"

"I figure I ought to tell you now," Fluttershy said with sigh. "I've decided that when I'm old enough, maybe in about a year or two, I'm packing up and moving to the ground."

Rainbow Dash's mouth instantly curled downwards and her eyes widened into a heavy stare which silently protested her words. At once, she was instantly reminded of the day Gilda had told her that she would no longer be living in Cloudsdale, and the same sensation of being engulfed in a void of emptiness overtook her at once. Once more, she was going to lose a best friend—a pony she had come to share many cherished moments with in the two years they had known each other.

"I...can't say I'm surprised," she asked after staring in silence for several seconds. "But...did you really think about it?"

Fluttershy nodded once. "Yes. I've thought about it for a long time. It's what I want to do."

Rainbow did not reply and stared back at the Wonderbolts, still busy with their final few autographs. Even after a few isolated trips down to the ground over the last few years, it still felt entirely like a foreign country to her, and she couldn't help but feel as though Fluttershy would be moving to the other end of the world.

"I know what you want to say," said Fluttershy, as though responding to Rainbow's thoughts. "I'm a pegasus, and I don't belong on the ground. But the more I think about it, the more I feel that I don't belong anywhere else. There's really nothing for me in Cloudsdale, except my relationships with my family....and with you. I'm really sorry if you feel like I'm leaving you behind, but I don't feel that I can live in this town all my life. And just because I'm leaving doesn't mean that you're never going to see me again."

"I wasn't going to say that," Rainbow said, shaking her head as she stared back into the teal Fluttershy's eyes. "I think it's what you should do. If you really feel that the ground is where you belong, then I'm sure it's where you belong."

"Thank you," Fluttershy replied with a slight nod, appearing less apprehensive. "I've even picked a town to move to. It's called Ponyville. It's not too far from where most of my animal friends live."

Rainbow Dash raised an eyebrow. "'Ponyville?' Seriously? Is that some kind of joke?"

"Wha—what do you mean?" Fluttershy asked, feeling somewhat insulted.

"What kind of name for a town is that?!" Rainbow asked, appearing as though she could burst into laughter. "So...am I right in assuming that ponies live there? Because I don't think I ever would have ever been able to guess that otherwise! I mean, we may as well start calling Cloudsdale, 'Pegasusville.'"

"Umm, well, it's a nice community," replied Fluttershy, ignoring her remarks. "And all kinds of ponies live there, even other pegasi. I'd be willing to show it to you if you want to follow me down there."

"Uhh, that's okay," Rainbow said, trying not to show her disinterest in her face. "I'll just take your word for it."

Fluttershy nodded, unsurprised by her response. "I'll still come and visit you, of course. I'll even come to see your shows once you're a Wonderbolt."

"Yeah, thanks," Rainbow replied with a nod, attempting not to show her unwillingness in her face. "But it's not like you're leaving right now, right?"

"No. As I said, it'll probably be within the next two years," answered Fluttershy. "I really hope you'll be in the Wonderbolts before I leave. But if not, I'll come and see you as soon as I get the news."

"I really don't know, Fluttershy," Rainbow said as she lowered her head mournfully, finally allowing the feeling from inside her to express itself through words. "I had never thought that getting into the Wonderbolts would be this hard for me....but it is..."

"You're going to make it," said Fluttershy, smiling warmly. "I'm sure of it."

Rainbow Dash could not help but return the smile, even though this may have been her hundredth or so time hearing those very words from her. She had repeated them constantly throughout the last two years, and even though she felt no closer to realizing her dream in spite of them, they nevertheless instilled her with unbridled confidence.

"Yeah, I know," Rainbow said with a grin. "It'll happen, no matter what my dad says."

They finally left the stadium as the Wonderbolts wrapped up their autograph-signing. Although she was saddened that her closest friend would be leaving in the near future, Rainbow at least felt a sense of happiness knowing that Fluttershy would not be doomed to spend her whole life being mocked and ridiculed for being a weak flyer.

Ponyville, she thought, shaking her head as Fluttershy trailed behind her in flight. What a ridiculous name for a town...


Inside her silent and empty fillyhood home, Rainbow Dash stood motionlessly as she watched the minutes tick by on the clock. Frozen with shock, she could do absolutely nothing but shake her head in disbelief. How was it even possible that tomorrow was Saturday? Had time truly slipped away from her that much? How could this be happening? Why now, and why like this?

Tomorrow was the day she had been waiting for her entire life—the day she had dreamt about hundreds upon hundreds of nights. And though she had always believed herself to be more than ready for when that day finally arrived, she realized now that it would have likely been impossible for her to be any less ready.

But what could she do about it? The thought of asking to have the date postponed instantly filled her with a sense of ominous dread, as though she expected that yet another life-altering event would occur just before the new date, and she would be forced to postpone it again, and then again, and again until the Wonderbolts finally lost interest in her. If she did not show up tomorrow, she felt that it would not happen at all. But could she perform competently, knowing that she would be attending her father's funeral the next day? If she could not, what reason would the Wonderbolts have to keep her in the Reserves? What if, after so many years, she ended up losing what she had worked so hard and so long for?

No. She would never allow that to happen...

"I can do this," Rainbow Dash suddenly said loudly to herself. "Yeah, I can do this! I was born to do this! Wonderbolts, here I come!"

With a confident grin conjured from nowhere, she picked her box back up and exited the house, feeling more sure of herself than she had all week. Her eyes formed a determined glare as she distanced herself from her hometown and headed back to Ponyville, partially struggling to keep the box clenched in her hooves against the steep decline. She knew that there was now a considerable amount of work to be done. If she was truly unprepared for her debut tomorrow, she would get prepared, even if it took all night, and even if it meant casting every single thought of her father aside. If she was going to fly for the Wonderbolts, she needed to be in more than tip-top shape—she needed to be prepared to fly like she had never flown before...

After dropping the box off at home, Rainbow Dash immediately went to work constructing a makeshift obstacle course comprised of multiple clouds lined up in a horizontal row in the skies over an empty field near Ponyville—a field she quickly realized was the same one that she and Scootaloo had played in nearly a week earlier.

Scootaloo! Rainbow's heart sank as she thought about her surrogate sister again. It quickly occurred to her that she had never informed Scootaloo about the date of her debut. How could she approach her now? How could she even begin to convince her to come? After a moment, Rainbow shook her head, opting to put it out of her mind for the moment while she focused everything on preparation.

Once ready, she flew over to the starting point of the course, and after slowly counting down from three in her head, she zipped swiftly towards the clouds, trail following behind her, her eyes cutting into another determined glare while her mouth simultaneously formed a malicious-looking grin. She soared through the cluster of clouds, dodging them narrowly as she passed, banking left and right and even up and down to avoid allowing her skin to make contact with even the tiniest wisp.

Midway through the course, Rainbow was almost surprised to find that a potent, yet undeniable satisfaction had quickly spread over her while she zoomed around the clouds. After days of struggling with her grief and desperately attempting to shun her feelings, she could hardly believe that at long last, she actually begun to feel a sense of happiness again. Finally, the excitement of fulfilling her dream had permeated through to the pit of her stomach, tingling her in such a way that she could have let out a boastful scream. She was once again in her element, in her zone. And tomorrow, she would ensure that the Wonderbolts regretted their decision not to include her within their ranks years ago...

As she approached the final cloud in the course, she swirled around it repeatedly, her speed increasing at each rotation. Within seconds, the cloud swirled along with her, falling slave to the tornado-like influence of Rainbow's wings. After more than thirty rotations, Rainbow Dash came to an instant stop, and the cloud hurled itself down to the ground, dissipating as it crashed against a nearby tree.

"And that's how it's done!" Rainbow boasted loudly as though she had been showing off to someone. "Just try to find somepony more suited for the Wonderbolts than me!"

She closed her eyes, continuing to take in the joyful bliss that remained in her stomach, doing her best not to think about anything except putting on her uniform for the very first time and impressing the Wonderbolts as she always wanted. It was a feeling that lasted for hours as she continued on training, attempting to make it through the course within ten seconds without striking any clouds. As she prepared to fly through it for what she could only imagine was the fortieth-or-so time, she soon noticed a familiar yellow-and-pink figure flying up to enter her peripheral vision.

"Rainbow Dash?" Fluttershy said as she approached, her voice heavy with confusion.

"Oh, hey," Rainbow replied with a nod of acknowledgement.

"What are you doing here?" she asked. "What happened with your return to Cloudsdale?"

Rainbow sighed, choosing to ignore the latter question. "Tomorrow's the day, Fluttershy. It's the day I've been waiting for my whole life."

Fluttershy gasped almost inaudibly. In the wake of Rainbow's coma and everything that had happened following it, she had almost completely forgotten about her Wonderbolts debut.

"Rainbow Dash, are you sure you're ready for this?" she asked. "We thought that you might have to postpone for a while until you recover."

Rainbow shook her head fiercely, causing droplets of sweat to fly from her forehead. "I'm not gonna postpone it. This is what I've been waiting for my entire life, and it's finally going to happen tomorrow. That's why I'm here. I need to get myself ready to fly like I've never flown before."

"Well, okay," said Fluttershy, still appearing apprehensive. "If you're sure, then we'll be there for you. I can't wait to watch you perform."

"I am," Rainbow said with nod. "But I really should get back to it. So, if you don't mind..."

But Fluttershy showed no intention of leaving her alone just yet.

"What happened with your trip back to Cloudsdale?" she questioned again. "What did you learn, if you don't mind my asking?"

Rainbow Dash sighed again. "I learned that you were right all along. He was waiting for me to come back, and I never did. And the letter is probably going to make me regret that forever."

Fluttershy frowned, her ears . "I'm truly sorry, Rainbow Dash."

Rainbow Dash quickly shook her head in frustration as she felt her happiness and bliss beginning to slip away again, instantly restoring her mournful feelings as they left her.

"Why does it have to be all my fault?!" she shouted bitterly. "I only left in the first place because of him! And yet, somehow it's all my fault that I never got to see him again! Why is all the blame is on me, and none of it on him?!"

"It is on him, too," Fluttershy said, somewhat stunned by her outburst. "It's not all your fault, Rainbow Dash."

"Apparently it is!" Rainbow retorted, feeling the sudden urge to kick through and destroy all the clouds of her obstacle course. "All week long the blame has been only on me! Nothing but blame left and right! And maybe I deserve some of it, but...I can't be the only one!"

"Rainbow Dash..."

Rainbow grunted angrily. "I had just taken my mind off it, Fluttershy! I was finally happy for the first time in days, and now I'm not!"

Fluttershy appeared to go tearful at her words. "Oh, goodness! I'm so sorry, Rainbow Dash. I didn't mean to make you upset..."

Rainbow shook her head and exhaled deeply, finding calm again. "It wasn't going to last anyway. I still can't take my mind off Scootaloo, and I really want her to be there for my debut tomorrow. But I don't think she'll come, even if I ask her."

"Have you tried talking to her?" asked Fluttershy, feeling slightly ridiculous about offering such simple advice.

"I don't know what to say, or even how to begin," replied Rainbow. "Every time I think about her, I just remember her glaring at me, like she never wanted to see me again. I know that I really hurt her. She just wanted to comfort me, but I....I did exactly what my dad was always so good at and pushed her away."

"Well, she can't ignore you forever," said Fluttershy. "Nor can you ignore her forever. Soon you're going to be standing face-to-face again, and when that happens, you'll need to know exactly what you want to say. Are you sorry for hurting her?"

Rainbow nodded. "Yeah...very."

"Well, that's a start," replied Fluttershy. "It may only be a single step on the road to forgiveness, but it's certainly the most important one."

"Maybe....maybe I don't deserve her forgiveness," Rainbow said, fighting to hold back tears. "Maybe I deserve to lose her..."

"Don't talk like that," Fluttershy replied at once. "You still have a chance to repair your broken relationship, and you need to seize it before it's too late. The longer you wait, the more heartache will develop between the both of you."

"Well, could you do me a favor?" Rainbow asked with a sigh. "Could you let her know that my Wonderbolts debut is tomorrow at two? I don't want you to ask her to come, I just want you to let her know. If she does come, I'll take that as my chance to try to fix our relationship."

Fluttershy stared back at her in silence for a few fleeting seconds before nodding slowly. "Alright, I can do that."

"Thanks," Rainbow said, gifting her with a tiny smile.

"Not everything is your fault, Rainbow Dash," said Fluttershy. "You were faced with something that you weren't prepared for. You may have made mistakes, but you don't deserve to lose everything because of them. You absolutely deserve to be happy and excited about tomorrow, and I'll leave you alone if you really need me to."

"Thanks," Rainbow Dash repeated, not knowing what else to say.

"I truly hope it will be everything you've always wanted it to be," Fluttershy said, smiling.

"So do I," Rainbow replied. "But remember, I don't want you to ask her to come. I just want to make sure that she knows about it."

Fluttershy nodded and flew off in the direction she came, permitting Rainbow to resume her preparation. She zipped through the course again, hoping to feel the happiness and bliss overtake her body once more.


Like the previous night, Rainbow Dash struggled to find any sleep, and she instead found herself trembling from both nervousness and anticipation as she lay awake in bed. She had long since wondered what the night before her first Wonderbolts debut would be like, but she certainly had not expected to feel so nervous about it. Numerous questions orbited her mind to hinder her ability to sleep: could she truly step into such a period of dream-living ecstasy, knowing that her father's funeral was the very next day? How would she feel when she looked in the mirror and saw herself wearing her Wonderbolt uniform? And would Scootaloo even bother to show up, or would she continue to shun her from her life?

After a while, Rainbow Dash rose from her bed and switched on the lamp on her bedside table. She floated over to the box of pictures which she had so casually tossed aside upon her return home and rummaged through it, eventually pulling out the one she cherished the most. She carefully placed it on the bedside table, just beside her father's letter. Almost at once, she felt as though she had taken a trip back in time to her fillyhood days when this very picture meant the world to her, gifting her a connection to her mother which was closer than she ever felt towards her gravestone—a connection close enough to be worthy of exchanging words.

"I know I haven't done this in a while," Rainbow spoke to the frame. "I guess you know now that I've been away for a long time."

The photograph did not reply, but Rainbow shook her head as though she had heard one.

"Don't look at me like that," Rainbow said, sighing. "I had to grow up sometime, didn't I?"

Rainbow paused again to allow for another reply. Unlike with her father the day before, she did not bother coming up with replies in her head. Instead, she simply pretended to hear them.

"Tomorrow's the day I've been waiting for my entire life," she continued. "All the years I've spent talking about it with you....it's finally happening tomorrow. I just thought that I should let you know."

She paused, imagining that her mother had bestowed her with some congratulatory response.

"Well, actually, I'm technically not in the Wonderbolts yet. For now, I'm just a Reserve, filling in for whenever one of them can't perform for whatever reason. Still, I'm part of them now. I've made it farther than dad ever thought I would."

The mention of her father almost immediately brought tears to her eyes, and she wiped them away before they could escape.

"I'm so sick of crying," she said with a frustrated sigh. "I don't want to cry anymore. I just want to enjoy tomorrow stop regretting how things turned out."

Rainbow sat in silence for a moment as she continued to wipe her tears. She imagined that if her mother were here in person, she would have wrapped her tightly within her comforting hooves, but that was a feeling that Rainbow had only experienced as a foal and could no longer remember, even after years of trying. Once more, she felt envious of her infant self, and could only imagine how much she would have savored her mother's touch had she known that she would grow up never feeling it again.

"I really hope you'll be watching me tomorrow," Rainbow said, smiling at the frame.

Without another word, Rainbow turned off the lamp and crawled back into bed, now feeling a bit more relaxed at the thought of her mother watching her performance and hoping that it would be enough to allow her some sleep.


Rainbow Dash lurched out of bed just after dawn, awakening from a dream in which she had shown up late for her debut and the Wonderbolts had stripped her of her Reserves membership. Looking out her window, she could see that the Weather Team was at work with their daily weather duties, once more without her own participation.

"Today's the day," she whispered to herself, and excitement quickly rushed to greet her.

There was still a long, agonizing wait ahead of her before the hour of two o'clock finally arrived. For today, time would most certainly move at the pace of a slug, with each and every minute passing by as though it were up to twice the normal length. And yet, even after all the hours of preparation she had subjected herself to the previous day, she still remained in ominous doubt that she was capable of making the best impression—and making the best impression was everything. Surely, whichever Reserve performed the most competently during their debut would almost certainly be the one who would be first to enter the official ranks of the Wonderbolts, and Rainbow would ensure that none of the other Reserves would steal that away from her.

"More practice," Rainbow said to herself as she allowed her excitement to settle. "I need more practice."

In a flash, she brushed through her front door without bothering to sit down to any breakfast, much to the dissatisfaction of her stomach, which grumbled in protest. Ponyville had just barely begun to awaken and embrace the weekend as Rainbow soared over it, returning to the airspace above the field she had trained in the previous day. Once again, the sky was transformed into her own personal training area as she went about performing every single Wonderbolt maneuver that she knew, both from her time in the Academy, as well as the ones she knew from simple memory of the dozens upon dozens of Wonderbolt shows she had watched in all her life.

"Look out, Wonderbolts! Here comes Dash!" she cried, grinning with unwavering fervor.

Two hours of almost non-stop training managed to pass by as Rainbow continued performing Wonderbolt maneuvers, smothered by the warmth of the mid-morning sun while her insides brimmed almost euphorically in the bliss of a much-deserved accomplishment. Just like the previous day, it seemed as though all of her problems had taken a long vacation and would not return anytime soon...or so she hoped.

"Yoo hoo!"

Rainbow Dash immediately recognized Rarity's cheerful voice calling out from just below her, and she looked down to see that her friends had gathered in the field.

"Hey, guys," she said, casually wiping the sweat from her forehead as rushed back down to meet them, smiling at their presence. "This is it!"

"So you're really going to go through with this?" asked Twilight. "You're absolutely sure?"

"Yeah," Rainbow nodded. "I don't have any reason not to. I'm not waiting any longer for this."

"Well, then we'll stand beside ya!" replied Applejack.

"And we'll certainly have to snap some pictures with you in your Wonderbolt uniform," said Rarity.

"Uh, sure, whatever," Rainbow Dash replied nonchalantly.

"Since we'll be in Cloudsdale, I guess I'll have to repeat the cloud-walking spell on you guys," said Twilight. "Fortunately, it doesn't wear off for a few days, so I shouldn't have to cast it again tomorrow."

"I don't want to think about tomorrow," Rainbow said, frowning slightly. "Tomorrow is tomorrow. But this is today, and it's going to go down as one of the greatest days of my life. It's all that matters to me right now."

"Oh, sorry," Twilight replied, biting her lip with a slight sting of guilt.

At once, Pinkie Pie threw her forelegs across Rainbow's neck and squeezed her tightly, a massive smile borne upon her face which could have erased all memory of the mournful expression she had maintained as she stared persistently at Rainbow's comatose body not more than two days ago.

"Our little Dashie is all grown up now!" she exclaimed. "We couldn't be happier for you!"

"Uh....Pinkie....can't..." Rainbow struggled to say, but Pinkie released her before her sentence finished.

"We couldn't be prouder of you, Rainbow Dash," said Fluttershy, smiling.

"It feels like only yesterday you were telling me how you wanted to impress the Wonderbolts at the Summer Sun Celebration on the day we first met," remarked Twilight. "I can't believe we're finally here."

"Nor can I," replied Rarity. "But you've worked hard for this, darling, and there's no doubt that you absolutely deserve it."

Their praise left Rainbow Dash with a tickling sensation within her stomach, and she could have accurately guessed that her cheeks were flushed.

"Thanks, guys."

"Why don't you come and grab a bite with us?" asked Applejack. "I reckon you'll need the energy."

"Sure," Rainbow said with a nod. "But only for an hour or so. I really need to get back to practicing."

As they started back towards town, Rainbow casually slipped beside Fluttershy and whispered into her ear.

"So um, did you...?"

Fluttershy responded with a single nod.

"Thanks," she whispered.

Rainbow exhaled a breath of relief. It was now only a matter of seeing whether or not Scootaloo would bother to show up...


"I'm here and ready to fly!" Rainbow Dash exclaimed excitedly as she burst through the double doors of the Wonderbolt Headquarters with only ten minutes to spare before the hour reached two. The lobby was occupied by a single mare at the reception desk, who looked up at her through a pair of white horn-rimmed glasses.

"And you are...?" she asked almost callously.

"Rainbow Dash, of course!" Rainbow replied, her tone implying a sense of conceit. "I'm surprised you even have to ask."

The receptionist looked back down at her desk and briefly scanned through an itinerary.

"Ah, yes, Rainbow Dash," she said with a nod. "'Wonderbolt Reserve exercises at 2 PM.'" She looked over at a nearby clock on the wall. "You sure did cut it close. You'd probably do well to remember that the Wonderbolts do not have much tolerance for unpunctuality."

"Sorry," Rainbow replied. "I kinda lost track of time practicing."

The receptionist ignored her. "Head over to the Conference Room. Take the hallway to your right and you'll find it a few doors down."

"Uhhh...thanks," Rainbow replied, and immediately floated her way over there.

The Wonderbolt Headquarters was a place Rainbow had visited frequently during her young life, and it had only undergone minimal change throughout the years. Multiple Wonderbolt portraits and artifacts adorned the walls of both the lobby and the hallway, which included a massive painting of General Firefly captioned "Our Founder", the very first Wonderbolt fabric uniform designed by Flair de Mare encased in a glass frame, and Commander Easy Glider's famous aviator sunglasses sitting in a tiny display box near the hallway where she was headed.

The Conference Room was the last of four doors in the hallway, the other three being dressing rooms labeled A, B, and C. Her heart thumping with anticipation, Rainbow Dash opened the door and was instantly greeted by the wide-eyed stares of Raindrops and Meadow Flower, two ponies whom she knew as fellow cadets during her time in the Wonderbolt Academy. They were sitting somewhat impatiently at the massive table in the center of the room, and Rainbow Dash quickly realized that they were there for the exact same reason that she was.

"Uhhh, hey," Rainbow said apprehensively. "I take it you guys are Reserves, too?"

Meadow Flower immediately looked at Raindrops, who now appeared less than pleased at Rainbow's sudden appearance.

"Looks like you owe me ten bits," she said with a casual grin.

Raindrops rolled her eyes. "I'll pay up later. I didn't bring any bits with me."

Rainbow Dash expressed her curiosity through a raised eyebrow. "Uhh...what's that about?"

"We had a bet," said Meadow Flower. "I was almost certain that we would be seeing you again today, but Raindrops thought that you had probably made it into the Reserves a long time ago."

"I didn't know that we'd be doing these exercises together," replied Rainbow, and her pressure to become the stand-out Reserve almost instantly mounted up even heavier than it already was.

"Neither did we, until we saw each other," replied Raindrops. "I wonder if anypony else is coming."

"I gotta admit, I'm kinda of surprised to see you here, Meadow," said Rainbow Dash. "I mean, no offense, but I don't remember you being the best flyer at the Academy."

"I wasn't," Meadow replied. "Back at the Wonderbolt Academy, I never thought I'd make it this far. But somehow, I've been able to increase my wing power from 8.6 to a 12.2. And now I'm actually about to wear a Wonderbolt uniform for the first time in my life. This hardly even seems real."

"Yeah, I know what you mean," Rainbow replied. "I've been waiting for this moment my entire life."

Raindrops let out an irritable sigh. "Of course, now that you're here, Meadow and I will both look like a joke."

"It's not a competition," replied Rainbow, despite believing the opposite. "We're already Reserves. The only thing you have to worry about is proving that you belong here."

"They won't be able to help but hold us to your standards," retorted Raindrops. "I really hope I didn't work this hard to get here only to fall under your shadow."

"Look, would you mind backing off?" Rainbow said, now irritable. "I've had a tough week, which is only going to get tougher tomorrow, and this is the only thing that I can look forward to. So I really don't need any of your crap today, alright?"

The room fell momentarily silent as a noticeable guilt swept over Raindrops' face. "Uhh...I'm sorry."

"Um, what happens tomorrow, if you don't mind me asking?" questioned Meadow Flower.

Rainbow sighed hesitantly. "Well..."

At that moment, Spitfire slammed through the door of the conference room, fully clad in her Wonderbolt uniform with the goggles sitting on her head. Behind her was a stallion who carried three white boxes in a small stack, obscuring his face from view.

"Good afternoon, Reserves!" she said with a grin. "Good to see that you're all here! The Wonderbolts pride themselves on their punctuality, and from the look of it, it seems that you've all grasped that quite well."

"Thank you, ma'am," said Rainbow Dash, now increasingly grateful that she had managed to make it in time.

Spitfire then motioned for the stallion to set the boxes down on the table, and he set them side by side each other. With his face no longer obscured, Rainbow saw that the stallion was Stromm Skyrider, the pony who had proctored her Reserves exam and had written her the acceptance letters. He immediately exited the room once the boxes were on the table, shutting the door behind him.

"I imagine you all know exactly what's in these boxes?" asked Spitfire.

She received only subtle nods in response as the three Reserves stared almost hypnotically at them, realizing the magnitude of their achievement for the very first time. Each box had their corresponding names scribbled upon the lid in jet black ink, almost giving the impression that the three Reserves had been given their own autographs. Raindrops made a move to open her box, which was quickly met with Spitfire slamming her hoof down on top of it.

"Before you open these boxes, I just want to make it clear to you that we will hold you to an exceptionally high standard when it comes to taking care of your uniforms," she said. "They are to be treated with the utmost respect, loyalty, and devotion that we, the Wonderbolts, pride ourselves upon. Do I make myself clear?"

"Yes, ma'am!" the Reserves replied in unison.

"Furthermore, you are only permitted to wear these uniforms when you're either standing in for a Wonderbolt, or unless we give you explicit permission to do so," Spitfire continued. "If we find out that you've been wearing it in public without our permission, there will be consequences, which may even include the suspension of your Reserves membership. Am I understood?"

"Yes, ma'am!" the Reserves repeated.

Spitfire removed her hoof from Raindrops' box and nodded her head towards them. "You'll find guidelines for taking proper care of your uniform inside. Go ahead and get yourselves ready in one of the three dressing rooms. I imagine that each of you are going to want to savor the moment of wearing a Wonderbolt uniform for the first time, so I will give you ten minutes to get ready, and then afterwards, I want you to meet me outside in the training arena."

"Yes, ma'am!" the Reserves repeated again.

With that, Spitfire opened the door again and exited the room, followed closely by Raindrops and Meadow Flower after having grabbed their boxes from the table. Rainbow Dash stared down on her box, looking intently at her name scribbled upon it. This was it. All her waiting had just been reduced to its final few seconds...

After a moment, she grabbed her box and floated over to Dressing Room C, the only one still left open, the interior of which was surrounded by mirrors on the walls and two large racks where several uniforms were hung, as well as more traditional Wonderbolt uniforms reminiscent of what the original squad wore. With a cold sigh, she set the box on the table and trembled as she moved a hoof to lift the lid. Just inside, the familiar blue-and-yellow fabric of her very own Wonderbolt uniform greeted her eyes with the same amount of magnificent splendor as that of a massive diamond. The goggles sat to the left of the box, while the guidelines, a two-page long sheet lay just underneath it.

"Today," Rainbow whispered, her trembling hoof instantly going steady. "Yes, today."

The sensation that fell over her for the next few minutes could be described as nothing more than a dream that had somehow crossed into the borders of reality. Rainbow closed her eyes as she felt the immensely soft and comfortably flexible fabric on her skin, which felt unlike any garment she had ever worn in her entire life, save for the cadet uniform she had worn at the Academy, made from a similar fabric. It adjusted to her body seamlessly, and she was even left amazed that her wings were able to fit through the tiny wing-holes without any problem. She was further stunned to find that the cowl was far more comfortable than she had ever imagined it to be as she slipped it over her head, and her mane passed through its top openings just as seamlessly as her wings. Before long, the uniform in it's entirety encompassed Rainbow's entire body until all that was left was the goggles. She cautiously removed them from the box, fitting them over her head while sliding them over her eyes. Much to her relief, the goggles were not a hindrance to her vision and instead appeared to magnify it, granting her a deeper level of perception which she could hardly wait to fly with.

At last, Rainbow Dash stepped towards the nearest mirror and forced herself to look into it, exhaling a tension-filled breath as she did so. She found herself staring back at an image which had frequently been prominent in her dreams: a pair of goggled eyes staring back at her, her rainbow mane protruding out from her cowl, and all that was missing was her rainbow trail following behind her as she zipped along with her Wonderbolt colleagues. Rainbow's entire body fell numb, and she allowed her vision to be muddled with tears, instantly wishing that her parents could see her right now, and that she could see the expressions of pride adorned upon their faces. She once again recalled them standing by her left and right sides during her dream, and she attempted to imagine that image again as she stared into the mirror, but it would not happen anymore forever. They were gone...

Rainbow finally exited the dressing room after exhaling a deep breath and wiping the tears from her eyes, rejoining Raindrops and Meadow Flower who were now also clad in their own Wonderbolt uniforms. Together, they went back through the lobby and exited the building through two massive back doors, leading to the massive aerial training arena, which was nothing more than a oval-shaped, empty sky, preceded by a platform of clouds that circled around its rim. Upon this platform were a pair of visitor stands were situated at both the far left and right sides of the arena, and Rainbow Dash instantly caught sight of her friends who had arrived later via hot air balloon, sitting in the stands on the left. They cheered wildly as the saw Rainbow emerge, far louder than the family and friends of Raindrops and Meadow Flower sitting nearby, mostly due to Pinkie's rapid "Ohmigosh, omigosh, omigosh!"

Rainbow quickly scanned her eyes across her distant group of friends, but was unsure if Scootaloo was among them. Before she had a chance to examine them more closely, Spitfire spoke to them again.

"Alright, let's get started," she said, ignoring the commotion in the stands. "Your performance today will gauge whether or not we made the right call in making you an official Reserve. Today, you'll be performing most basic of Wonderbolt formations that you've each been exposed to before at the Academy. However, unlike at the Academy, there is very little margin for error here. I will give you two attempts to nail each maneuver, and if you cannot pull it off by the second try, you will fail that maneuver. If you fail three maneuvers, you will lose your Reserves membership, and the Wonderbolt uniform you're wearing right now will be subsequently burned."

Meadow and Raindrops looked at each other fearfully while Rainbow Dash cocked a confident grin.

"You'll each perform simultaneously, since you'll need to get used to performing in synchronization," Spitfire continued. "This means flying at the same speed, which in this case should be roughly 12.0 wing power. Of course, I'm not expecting you three to be experts at this right away, but you'll at least need to show me that not only are you able to pull off maneuvers, you're able to do so with at least some sync. As a final notion, I need to remind you all that you're not in any competition against each other. I'm looking for each of you to impress me as a team, rather than as individuals. Is that clear?"

"Yes, ma'am," the trio repeated.

"You'll start off with the Icaranian Sun Salutation," said Spitfire. "Each of you learned this pattern during your time in the Academy, so it should still be familiar to you. You may decide amongst yourselves who will lead. However, each of you will lead in at least one exercise today."

"I've got this one," Raindrops said at once.

"Fine," Rainbow Dash replied, noticeably disappointed. Meadow gave a slight nod.

They stepped off of the cloud platform and their wings immediately took over for their hooves. They floated near the center of the arena, and the ponies in the stands gave yet another howl of joy and excitement. Rainbow Dash again attempted to scan through the faces of her friends to look for Scootaloo, but she still could not see any sign of her.

"Dash, you're on the left. Meadow, you're right," instructed Raindrops.

"Got it," replied Rainbow Dash.

After a visual cue of readiness, Raindrops soared upward, followed closely by Rainbow, then Meadow. After reaching a certain peak, they instantly split apart, Dash circling the left side of the arena while Meadow Flower circled the right and Raindrops descended in a swift twirl, eventually bringing herself back up to complete an oval shape. As she circled around, Rainbow finally neared the stands close enough to see her friends through the magnified vision of her goggles, and what she saw made her insides nearly shatter to pieces.

Scootaloo was not among them. None of the faces in the stand belonged to her, and Flutteshy's face wore a distinctive frown, knowing how disappointed she would be at this realization. Surely this meant that Scootaloo had not thought it worth her time to come see Rainbow in her very first and only Wonderbolt debut. Even Spike had shown up in what was his very first trip to Cloudsdale, but Scootaloo had apparently decided against it.

Sighing deeply to herself, Rainbow Dash reunited with the other two after the fourth rotation, and they met in the middle, with Rainbow and Meadow twirling around Raindrops as they ascended again and finally completed the maneuver, causing the ponies in the stands to howl with applause.

"Very impressive, Reserves," said Spitfire, who flew up to approach them. "Meadow Flower, you were a bit wavy in your rotations, and that's something you're definitely going to need to work on. However, fortunately for you, it was minor enough that I won't count it as a failure."

Meadow's face exploded with relief. "Thank you, ma'am."

"Now onto the Butterfly to Bumblebee pattern, another one the three of you are familiar with," said Spitfire. "Rainbow Dash, you're leading this one. Understood?"

Rainbow offered no response, and her head was turned towards her friends, who were now watching in anticipation as to what maneuvers they would see next.

"Understood?!" Spitfire repeated, her voice louder.

"I....I have to go..." Rainbow replied in a low voice.

"Excuse me?" replied Spitfire, unsure if she was serious.

But before Rainbow said another word, her wings carried her away from the arena within seconds, much to the utter disbelief of everyone present.

"Rainbow Dash!" Spitfire called after her.

But Rainbow had no intention of turning back. Scootaloo's absence had suddenly made it abundantly clear what she needed to do, and she strongly felt that If she did not do it now, she would lose Scootaloo forever. Their relationship stood on a precipice, and any one step forward would send it collapsing into an unknown abyss, never to be returned.

"As of this moment, I was not here with you on Saturday when you got the news. I won't be checking on you anymore because I have no idea that anything is wrong. I won't be going to the funeral because I have no idea that there is a funeral. As of right now, I know nothing, just how you want it."

Scootaloo's words rang within her head, and Rainbow Dash glared in anger at herself as her wings carried her swiftly back in the direction of Ponyville. It was her only plan, and at this point, there was no way of knowing whether or not it would work. But she could not waste another second to find out.

Perhaps she had just lost her Wonderbolt Reserves membership forever. Perhaps her dream had just come to an end on the day it came true. Yet in that moment, losing Scootaloo seemed like a far greater loss—a loss she would never be able to live with...

Rainbow soon arrived back in Ponyville, hopeful that Scootaloo would be home in spite of the lovely Saturday that the Weather Team had granted them. Full of determination that she was not planning on going to waste, she landed down upon Scootaloo's doorstep and firmly knocked upon the door.

Chapter 12 -- Today They Weep

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A moist and saturated atmosphere surrounded Rainbow Dash as she hovered in place, staring down at the green grass, bushes, and trees just below her. The green hue dominating the surface of the ground appeared to extend far beyond what she could possibly see, though some mountains in the distance confirmed to her that it did eventually come to an end. The grass seemed as vast and encompassing as any ocean, and Rainbow Dash was loathe to be anywhere near it. It was only her second trip to the ground in her young life, but the boring and empty plains did not seem any more appealing to her than they had the first time she saw them.

Just overhead was an entirely gray sky, which like the grass, appeared to stretch on beyond what her eyes could see. The coolness in the air and the thunder already beginning a gentle rumble in the clouds had informed everypony within its radius that rain was inevitable. Rainbow Dash stared upwards, wishing that she could pass back through those clouds and head home where it was always sunny, no matter what the weather was on the earth below. Yet that desire was even more distant than the mountains, as her father insisted that they take another trip to the ground on this particular day, much to her aggravation.

"Come on now, Dashie!" her father called from just beneath her, his voice expressing irritation.

"Don't call me that!" Rainbow Dash protested. "I hate that name!"

He sighed to himself, shaking his head as she did so. "Will you just come on down already? What are you so afraid of?"

"I'm not afraid!" retorted Dash, insulted by the notion. "I just hate it down there. What do you want to show me anyway?"

"You'll know soon enough," her father replied, impatient. "You just need to get your flank down here. Now."

Rainbow Dash loudly heaved a frustrated groan and gradually decreased her altitude, slowly dropping down lower and lower until her hooves made contact with the grassy earth.

"Now that wasn't very hard, was it?" her father asked patronizingly.

Rainbow Dash refused to reply. The grass was uncomfortable to the touch—not only it was cold, it prickled her skin so irritatingly that she responded by fluttering her wings to lift herself above it.

"I hate being on the ground," she repeated, glaring at the grass, intent to let her father know just how much she did not want to entertain whatever it was he had in mind.

"I know you do," said Rainbow Blaze, rolling his eyes. "But your mother loved it down here. And since today would have been her birthday, I think we need to do something she would want."

"Which is what?" asked Dash, annoyed. Her father had refused to answer this.

"Come with me. I'll show you," he replied.

Rainbow Blaze set off in a northward direction, leaving Rainbow Dash with little other choice than to reluctantly follow behind. A sudden rumble of thunder complimented the ominous feeling she had about being in such unfamiliar territory, heading for an unknowable destination somewhere in an endless green ocean...


Rainbow Dash's unexpected departure from the arena had been received like a massive freeze spell being cast upon everypony present. Spitfire, Raindrops, and Meadow Flower were left perplexed as they hovered in silence, waiting to see whether or not she would return. In the stands, Rainbow's friends shared similar looks of confusion, each wondering to themselves whether or not her departure was simply part of a new routine. But after a minute had passed, it became clear that whatever had happened was certainly not planned or intended.

"Aw, is the show over already?" Pinkie Pie asked, softening the tension between them. "Well, that was short..."

"I'm not too sure, Pinkie," replied Applejack, squinting her eyes at the sky for any trace of a rainbow trail zipping in their direction. "She is comin' back, right, y'all?"

"I don't know...." replied Twilight, staring at Spitfire pacing herself from afar, seemingly just as perplexed as they were. "I...don't think they know what's going on."

Fluttershy bit her lip, knowing that she was the only one present who may have possessed the answer as to what had just happened. Scootaloo had expressed no interest in joining them to watch Rainbow's Wonderbolt debut, and she had been worried of how Rainbow would react when she found out. It seemed as though that she manage to notice Scootaloo's absence as she flew near them, and had thus possibly returned to Ponyville in a last-ditch effort to convince her to attend.

Without offering any word of explanation to her speculative friends, Fluttershy rose from her seat and flew out into the arena towards Spitfire and the other two confused Reserves, each of whom was now in the process of debating what to do next.

"Should we just continue?" asked Raindrops. "I somehow doubt she's coming back anytime soon."

Spitfire did not answer right away. She was still in indescribable shock that the pony who had fought harder to get into the Wonderbolts than any pony she had ever known would abandon her own debut for any reason whatsoever.

"Well, if she's not back within five minutes, we'll—" Spitfire stopped speaking as she noticed Fluttershy's approach.

"What happened?" Fluttershy asked the moment her soft voice was within earshot.

"We don't know," Spitfire replied. "She said that she had to go and she just took off. If she's not back within five minutes, I might have to revoke her Reserves membership. Never in my thirteen years of—"

"No!" Fluttershy squealed at once. "Please, you can't do that! Rainbow Dash has been going through a lot lately, and kicking her out of the Reserves would just crush her!"

"Well, then can you explain her actions?" replied Spitfire, raising an eyebrow. "Could you give me any reason as to why she would do this?"

"She mentioned that she was dreading something that apparently happens tomorrow," noted Meadow Flower. "I would place my bits on that having something to do with it."

Fluttershy's ears wilted, realizing that she was going to have to unveil Rainbow's private life yet again if she wanted to save her status as a Reserve.

"Her dad died a week ago," she said reluctantly. "Since she got the news, she's kinda been spiraling all over the place. She even fell into a brief coma which she just woke up from the other day."

"A coma?!" replied Raindrops, bewildered.

"Oh my, that's awful!" added Meadow Flower.

Spitfire looked at Fluttershy with an affectionate disbelief, but said nothing.

"As for why she left, I think I have the answer," Fluttershy continued. "There's somepony who Rainbow Dash wanted to come and watch her debut along with us, but she didn't show up. I think she just went to try and convince her."

The four of them fell silent for nearly three quarters of a minute as Fluttershy stared at Spitfire with pleading eyes, hoping that what she disclosed would be enough to convince her to reconsider.

"We're moving forward," Spitfire said suddenly, turning away from Fluttershy's gaze. "Where were we? The Butterfly to Bumblebee pattern, correct? Meadow Flower, you're leading in Rainbow Dash's place."

"Y-yes, ma'am!" Meadow replied, appearing more than a little unprepared.

Fluttershy opened her mouth to say something in protest, but Spitfire quickly turned back towards her and spoke again.

"I highly suggest you get her to come back."

Before Fluttershy could say anything else, Spitfire returned the arena's stands while the two remaining Reserves prepared themselves to begin their new routine, and a victorious grin was momentarily visible on Raindrops' face.


Scootaloo was frozen almost entirely stiff at the sight of the Wonderbolt standing on her doorstep. Only the rainbow-colored mane gave any indication of who was truly standing before her, and she only barely resisted the urge to slam the door shut.

"Do you....uh....have a minute?" Rainbow asked, lifting up her goggles.

Scootaloo sighed hesitantly. She had expected that Rainbow might pay her a visit after she failed to show up at her debut, but she certainly had not expected that it would be this soon.

"I'm....a bit busy right now," Scootaloo replied, her mind scrambling to come up with some validation for the lie.

"It's important," Rainbow said, deciding not to ask. "I'll be as quick as I can."

Scootaloo's lips grew tighter, quickly debating with herself whether or not she should simply shut the door and pretend that Rainbow had never stopped by. Surely, she was only there to smother her in a blanket of guilt for her lack of attendance, or even to subtly chastise her for it. Nevertheless, against what she was sure was her better judgement, she soon found herself stepping aside to allow Rainbow Dash to enter her home, leading her into the living room where a single sofa and two armchairs sat in the view of an unlit fireplace.

Rainbow Dash instantly recalled that the last time she was inside Scootaloo's home, she was attempting to convince her to perform alongside her fellow Crusaders in a routine for the spot of Ponyville flag-carriers for the Equestria Games, and that her lack of ability to fly was not relevant to how awesome she was. It was the kind of sisterly moment that Rainbow Dash cherished—the kind that instantly reminded her of why saving their relationship was worth possibly losing her entry into the Wonderbolts.

"So what do you want?" Scootaloo asked with less-than-subtle hostility as she took a seat on one of the armchairs. "If you're wondering why I didn't come to your Wonderbolt thing, I just didn't feel like it, okay?"

Rainbow Dash shook her head slowly as she took a seat on the opposite armchair. "I need to tell you something."

Scootaloo stared at Rainbow with eyes that appeared to suggest that she was willing to listen, though still maintaining a sense of displeasure that she was sitting inside her house. Rainbow exhaled a steady, yet nervous breath, hoping that the idea she had spent the last ten minutes focusing her thoughts upon would work. It had to work...

"My dad died a week ago," she said, pausing for a moment to read Scootaloo's reaction, which appeared to quickly shift from annoyed to indifferent.

"I know I should have told you sooner, but...I was going through a really rough time. And I mean really rough. You probably wouldn't believe me if I told you. I've made some pretty big mistakes over the past week. I've alienated my friends and even worse, I've managed to hurt somepony who truly means the world to me. Maybe I've damaged our relationship forever, I don't know. But if there was anything I could do to make that up to her, I would do it. I would do whatever it took."

Rainbow Dash paused again and looked at Scootaloo as though she expected an answer or anything else that would have implied that she had an interest in rebuilding their relationship. But Scootaloo said nothing, shifting her eyes warily around the room as a gesture to reject Rainbow's offer to reply.

"Anyway, I wanted to let you know that his funeral is tomorrow," Rainbow Dash continued. "And it would really mean a lot to me if you were there."

Scootaloo focused her eyes on a random picture sitting on the mantelpiece, still choosing to delay her response. Rainbow Dash did not notice any change in her expression. Scootaloo still appeared indifferent, seemingly debating an answer inside her mind. Rainbow soaked up the silence, willing to wait hours for a response if that was what it took, just so long as she managed to accomplish what she had came for. But only after two minutes, Scootaloo again found the will to look her in the eye again.

"Thanks for telling me all this," she said. "But I'm sorry. I'm not going to go."

The words emerged like an iron horseshoe being thrust violently into Rainbow's forehead. She nearly gave in to the urge to jump from her seat and throw herself at Scootaloo's hooves in desperation.

"W—Why not?" she asked, almost too afraid to hear the answer.

Scootaloo unexpectedly cut her eyes into a glare as though appalled that Rainbow would even dare asking for a reason.

"Do you have any idea how I felt when I heard you were in a coma?!" she shouted. "Do you have any idea what you put me through?!"

Another horseshoe launched itself into Rainbow's skull, and she sunk into her chair with the feeling that it was now attempting to swallow her whole.

"I wasn't—I didn't think you really cared," Rainbow said, her voice numb. "I mean, you didn't come to visit me, right?"

"Of course I came to visit you!" Scootaloo cried. "I just didn't want you to know about it, so I told your friends not to tell you that I was ever there. I didn't think that you deserved my sympathy or my pity after the things you said to me."

Rainbow Dash leaned forward in her chair, which had suddenly stopped trying to swallow her up and instead seemed to want to eject her at top speed so that she crashed through a sturdy brick wall.

"But....you really cared that I was in a coma?" she asked, failing to suppress a tender smile overtaking her lips. The frustration in Scootaloo's face only heightened when she saw it, as she immediately realized that Rainbow Dash was now expressing the very satisfaction that she had been intent to disallow her.

"I thought I was the reason you were there!" Scootaloo shouted, eyes filling with unprompted tears. "Do you understand that?! I thought you had actually tried to take your life because of the way I had left you! Do you have any idea how terrible that made me feel?! You could have died, and you would have made me feel responsible for it for the rest of my life!"

The smile on Rainbow's face vanished at once. Once more, she found herself sinking into her chair, almost expecting to be gulped up...and perhaps even hoping for it.

"I'm so, so sorry, Scoot. I'm telling you, if I could redo this entire week, I would."

"But you can't," Scootaloo replied harshly, wiping her eyes.

"No, I can't," replied Rainbow, nodding solemnly. "I can't take back how I treated you, And I definitely can't take back how I probably ruined the best day of my life by abandoning my Wonderbolt debut to come and talk to you. Maybe I'll get kicked out of the Reserves—I don't know. But saving my relationship with you matters a lot more to me now. I can't let myself do to you what my dad did to me."

Scootaloo froze up for a brief moment. Even despite Rainbow's quick arrival, she had not assumed that she had abandoned her debut to come. Though it did not take her long to realize that Rainbow had probably only brought it up in a particularly unsubtle attempt to inspire sympathy from her, Scootaloo still felt uneasy about the notion that Rainbow Dash may have thrown away her chance to become a Wonderbolt entirely on her own behalf.

"So what happened to you, anyway?" asked Scootaloo after the shock had left her. "How did you end up in a coma?"

"I just....I didn't realize sooner how right you were," said Rainbow, struggling with hesitation. "And...how wrong I was."

Scootaloo raised an eyebrow, indicating that she was dissatisfied with the answer. Rainbow sighed and tried again.

"I haven't been sleeping well lately," she said. "I guess I was just trying to fly away from my problems while I was tired, but I crashed somehow, and of course, they only got worse after that. It wasn't your fault, Scoot. It was only mine."

Scootaloo chuckled humorlessly to herself.

"I wanted to hear you say that ever since I left you. But once I heard about your coma, I wanted nothing more than to take everything I said to you back. And now that you've finally said it, I don't feel anything. Especially not satisfaction."

"Yeah, I know that feeling," Rainbow said with a sigh. "When I was putting on this uniform, I didn't feel any satisfaction that I was right all along. Maybe that's just how it's supposed to be. Life is just too short for that."

"Well, I once thought of you as the most awesome pony I had ever known, and I wanted so much to hear you admit you were wrong," replied Scootaloo. "But you won again. Because even though I didn't want your friends to tell you that I visited you in the hospital, I knew you would find out soon enough anyway. I knew that when we eventually had this very talk, I would tell you if you hadn't figured it out before then."

"I haven't won anything," said Rainbow, shaking her head.

Scootaloo simply sighed in response, appearing to disagree.

"The point is that when it comes to you and me, you'll always win," she said after a moment. "Because whether you realize it or not, you own me."

Rainbow Dash returned her a look heavy with confusion. "What...what are you talking about?"

Scootaloo shook her head and sighed.

"I don't know if you came here expecting that we would just pick up where we left off and become sisters again, but....I don't think I'm ready for that yet," said Scootaloo. "I'm not ready to forgive you. And I don't know if I'll ever be."

Rainbow Dash fell numb in her chair, certain that she would have much rather crashed headfirst through a brick wall than hear the words that had just come from Scootaloo's mouth. How could this be it? How could her idea not have worked? Had she truly put her Wonderbolt dream on the line just to accomplish nothing? She struggled to hold back tears, her mouth too numb to speak.

"You should probably head back now," said Scootaloo, feeling slightly awkward at Rainbow's silence. "I wouldn't want the Wonderbolts to kick you out of the Reserves over this."

Her every leg numb, Rainbow Dash remained seated for several seconds before raising from her seat via her wings and exiting Scootaloo's house without a single word more. There was nothing else she could glean from what had just transpired in the last twenty-five minutes other than that on this day, the would-be greatest day of her life, she had lost two of the biggest things she ever cared about...


Rainbow Dash continued to glare at the grassy earth as she remained hovering just inches above it, intent to never set so much as a single hoof upon it ever again. Yet her father continued to walk upon it as though it were just as comfortable as any cloud, his every step leaving behind a slight depression. He moved at pace so aggravatingly slow that Rainbow would have thought that his hooves were weighed down with iron shackles. Wherever they were going, he seemed to be deliberately taking his time to get there.

"Are we almost there?" Rainbow Dash complained, tired of moving so slowly.

"We will be soon," Rainbow Blaze replied.

"You mean we'll be there soon, or we'll be almost there soon?" Dash inquired.

Blaze chuckled to himself while Dash glared with annoyance.

"Just enjoy the stroll," said Blaze. "You know, the ponies who live on the ground tend to enjoy taking nature walks like this."

Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes while simultaneously expelling a groan. She could never imagine how dull the lives of ground ponies must be if walking upon this prickly sea of green was something that they did for enjoyment. Another rumble of thunder above rang through her ears like a beckoning call, as though the sky was ordering her back home at once. She could not shake the ominous feeling that if she did not return soon, she would surely regret it...

As though conjured from thin air, Rainbow Dash felt a wet drip splatter upon her head, which was quickly followed with another on her body. For the briefest moment, she believed that the grass was now spewing water at her out of spite, yet she quickly realized that these droplets were emerging from the gray clouds above. Within a matter of seconds, they descended quicker and quicker until she could see almost nothing but falling water everywhere she looked and her wet mane hung down in between her eyes.

"What is this?!" Dash demanded as she stared up at the leaking clouds, only to be met with a swift raindrop landing squarely in her left eye.

"It's raining, Dashie," answered Blaze, appearing to be somewhat satisfied by this fact.

"Oh," replied Dash, rolling her eyes at the loathsome nickname again. She had never seen or even felt rain before, but she knew that it was one of the primary reasons why the Weather Factory churned out clouds.

"Your mother enjoyed coming down here whenever it was raining," said Blaze. "In fact, that was when she wanted to come down here the most."

"But why?" asked Dash, her irritation growing with each and every raindrop that made contact with her body. "What's the point of rain, anyway?"

"Without rain, earth ponies would be unable to grow their crops. No crops means no food, and that would affect us in Cloudsdale, too. And also, without rain, water would be much more scarce, and Cloudsdale obviously cannot function without water."

Rainbow Dash shook her head in disbelief. Truly, there was no greater place of misery to live in all of the universe...

"Why would mom like....this?" she asked with genuine curiosity. "Any of this?"

"I'll tell you soon," said Blaze, then pointed just ahead of them. "You see that tree over there? That's where we're going."

Rainbow Dash squinted her eyes to see a single, solitary tree standing several meters away, roughly half as tall as their home in Cloudsdale. It appeared to be the only tree in view for quite some distance, but beyond that, there was nothing particularly interesting or noteworthy about it. It seemed like nothing more than a protruding brown-and-green mass raising up from the earth below, just as boring and uninteresting as the rest of this foreign land.

Rolling her eyes, Rainbow Dash continued following her father, whose pace finally began to hasten as he tread towards their destination.


Rainbow Dash slowly made her way back to the Wonderbolt Headquarters with only a single idea in mind of what would be waiting for her when she returned. Even in spite of the relationship they had built since the Best Young Flyer Competition, there was little reason to expect that Spitfire would show her any mercy. At the very least, she would surely be reprimanded for running off while still wearing the uniform, and for subsequently wearing it in public. Spitfire had said there would be consequences for that particular offense, though she wasn't specific as to what those consequences would be. Whatever they were, Rainbow Dash was certain that either her Reserves membership would be revoked, or she would have to go back for another round in the Academy. Either way, be it temporarily or permanently, she knew that her Wonderbolt dream would be yanked from her hooves, and she would only have herself to blame.

When she returned to the training arena, it did not particularly surprise her to see that no one was there. It would have definitely been a shock to see Spitfire, Raindrops, and Meadow Flower still waiting for her as though she had just taken a quick restroom break. By squinting her eyes, Rainbow was able to see that Applejack, Rarity, Spike, and Pinkie were still seated in the stands, the last of whom shouted "She's back!" when she caught sight of Rainbow. But Twilight and Fluttershy were nowhere in sight, nor were the friends and families of Raindrops or Meadow Flower—nor even Raindrops or Meadow Flower themselves. She almost felt as though she was showing up late to a Wonderbolt show which had concluded quite some time ago.

Pinkie's outburst seemed to alert Spitfire, who emerged from the stands like a hawk rushing towards its prey. The aggressive nature of her approach let Rainbow know that she was not in any forgiving mood, and certainly not prepared to accept any excuse she would attempt give her. Before Rainbow Dash had any idea of what she was going to say to explain her actions, Spitfire came to a sudden halt in front of her.

"In my office. Now," she said with a frighteningly hostile tone.

Rainbow did not have a chance to speak; Spitfire hurried away just as quickly as she had rushed over. Rainbow remained in place as she watched her cross through the double doors into the headquarters again. With an apologetic frown, she looked over at her four friends whose expressions were too distant to see. Surely, they must have desired an explanation, and she could only assume that Fluttershy and Twilight were not present because they had left to search for her.

Sighing with the acceptance of her imminent fate, Rainbow Dash looked away from her friends and followed Spitfire back into the headquarters, making her way to her office, the location of which she knew well. She had visited the captain's office several times back when she was a filly, trying to plead her case with the former captain as to how much the Wonderbolts were missing out on by not including her within their ranks. Even though those days seemed so long behind her, it now appeared as though she would be trying to plead her case within that very same office again...

As Rainbow Dash stepped timidly into the office, she noticed that it was now much less cluttered than when she had first entered it as a filly. Like the hallways outside, Wonderbolt memorabilia sat within glass cases or were hung upon the walls, but all of the former captain's stockpiles of personal awards and accomplishment plaques was gone. Spitfire was seated at her desk, appearing to be cycling through a record book until she landed on a page. Rainbow Dash immediately assumed that the page detailed her status as a Reserve, and an image of Spitfire tearing it out, crumpling it up and throwing it in a nearby wastebasket flashed instantly through her thoughts. A few tension-heavy seconds passed, and Spitfire looked up at Rainbow Dash slowly, her eyes slanting into an impatient glare.

"I hope you weren't expecting us to wait for you," she said coldly.

"I wasn't, ma'am," replied Rainbow Dash, taking a seat in front of her. "I'm really sorry for—"

"The other two completed their exercises and have gone home," Spitfire interrupted. "I had Meadow Flower lead in your place."

Rainbow cast her eyes down and nodded. Even with her own fate in question, she was at least glad that her action had not hindered Raindrops and Meadow Flower in any way.

"I trust you understand that I cannot give you any special treatment," Spitfire said. "But if I'm honest, what you've done is unprecedented. I've never even seen so much as a cadet abandon exercises the way you have. And that, of course, means that as captain of the Wonderbolts, it falls upon me to determine the consequence for such an action."

Rainbow could no longer find the nerve within her to speak, as though simply sitting before Spitfire had left her with a bridle thrust around her mouth which clamped it shut.

"As Wonderbolts, we have strict commitments to the citizens of Equestria," Spitfire continued. "We have always been at the forefront of danger, saving citizens however we can, even if it means laying down our lives. In the heat of a moment, we cannot afford to abandon anypony in need of saving. Now my question to you, Rainbow Dash, is how am I to know you won't forsake those commitments after what you have displayed to me today?"

Rainbow Dash stared back into Spitfire's unforgiving eyes, wishing that she was not being forced to answer her.

"I'm sorry, ma'am," she replied after some seconds passed. "I don't have any excuse. All I can say is that there was something that was just....more important to me at the moment. I had to go back home."

Spitfire stared at her silence, impatiently tapping her hoof against the desk. Rainbow stared back at her, still completely certain that it was only a matter of time before she stripped her of her Reserves membership or ordered her to return to the Academy. After more than half a minute had passed the delay began to chip away at her sense of sanity. Why did Spitfire insist on dragging this out?

"You know, I lost my father at a very young age," Spitfire said with a voice which was unexpectedly tender, offering a stark contrast from the berating voice which had scorned through Rainbow's ears just moments ago. "I was only about four, and it was long before I had even been given the chance to know him well. That sort of pain....I know how much it tends to linger with you, always coming back after a while no matter how much you don't want it to. Even as you grow up, you'll never stop wondering how differently you would have turned out if you had been fortunate enough to have both parents."

Rainbow Dash blinked with bewilderment in response to this turn in the conversation. Spitfire paused to allow her a chance to reply, but Rainbow simply dropped her head again. It was obvious that Spitfire had been told of her father's death, but pity wrapped around Rainbow Dash as painfully as a blanket of needles. Though she unquestionably desired to remain in the Wonderbolt Reserves, it was somehow distasteful to think that Spitfire would keep her in only because she simply felt sorry for her.

"All I have left is my mom," said Spitfire after realizing that she would receive no response. "She's been there for me every step of the way: The day I made it into the Wonderbolts, the day I first performed in a show, and nearly every single time I've performed since. She was there each time I increased in rank, all the way up until I became captain. I don't know what I'd do without her. If I were to ever get the message that something had happened to her, I would rush to her aid, even if it meant forsaking a commitment I made to perform. After all, simply performing in a show does not quite hold the same weight as rushing into the middle of a crisis where lives are at stake. When it comes to the former, our commitments can be a bit...looser."

Rainbow continued to remain silent, though Spitfire's words left her stunned as they entered through her ears.

"I'm very sorry about your dad," Spitfire continued. "I'm very sorry that he wasn't here for you today. I'm sorry for everything you've gone through this past week. But that you still found the will to show up here today when you had a purely legitimate reason to postpone it is quite admirable and quite expectant of a Wonderbolt. As such, I cannot in any good conscience strip you of your Reserves membership."

Every word beyond "Wonderbolt" reached Rainbow's ears in slow motion, and her appreciative reaction was delayed by several seconds. A faint smile was visible on her face as she looked back up.

"Thank you, ma'am," she said in a low voice.

"I don't need to know why you left. It's your business," said Spitfire. "We'll schedule a new date for you later, whenever you think you're ready."

Rainbow Dash's smile was lost following these words, and she could not help but exhale a sigh. After so adamantly insisting that she would be going through with her exercises today, she could hardly believe that she still ended up having them postponed after all.

"Thank you, ma'am," she repeated, grateful nevertheless at the gesture.

"I'd like to ask if you will allow me to attend the funeral," said Spitfire. "It's tomorrow, right?"

Rainbow Dash now looked at her as though she expected that she was joking, even though her tone did not imply as much.

"Uh...sure. But why?"

"Just think of it as an expression of my sorrow that he wasn't here today," Spitfire answered as she closed the record book on her desk. "And besides, I think it's the least I could do."

"I...I appreciate it, ma'am," Rainbow Dash replied, somehow managing a larger smile.

"In the future, Rainbow Dash, I would prefer more of an explanation before you just take off," Spitfire said, now looking at her with more seriousness. "As I said, Wonderbolts are not expected to simply cut and run, and certainly not with no reason given. Even though I am sympathetic to your circumstance, this is the only time that I'm going to let this slide, understand?"

"Right," Rainbow Dash replied, nodding. "I understand, ma'am."

"Well, then that'll be all," said Spitfire. "I'll see you tomorrow."

Rainbow Dash nodded silently, then rose from her seat and made a move back towards the office door.

"Oh, and Rainbow Dash?"

Rainbow turned her head. "Yes?"

"Your uniform..."

"Oh, right."

Rainbow had almost forgotten that the unbelievably comfortable fabric still engulfed her body, and another wave of disappointment instantly washed over her. She had hoped that when she was finally taking the uniform off again, she would have been feeling an enormous satisfaction at having successfully impressed Spitfire by her performance. Instead, it seemed that she would only feel the satisfaction of not getting herself expelled from the Reserves.

"Go on back to the dressing room. Your box is still there," Spitfire ordered.

"What should I do with it?" Rainbow asked.

"Take it home with you, but remember that you are not to wear it in public unless I say otherwise," answered Spitfire sternly. "Understood?"

Rainbow frowned. "Yes, ma'am."


The tree did not appear any more interesting or unique to Rainbow Dash and she her father neared it. It still seemed just as boring and pointless as any other. The rain continuing to soak Dash's mane filled her with a growing, silent aggravation, yet her father continued to stroll along just as merrily as he had been the entire time, showing no indication that the rain bothered him at all—or that he even noticed it.

"Here we are," he said as they finally arrived and he ducked down underneath the tree's leaves.

Rainbow Dash ducked herself beneath the leaves as well, hoping that they would offer some refuge from the unrelenting raindrops. But the falling water still manged to pass through the leaves and branches, and the protection the tree offered was only marginal at best. She imitated her father as she watched him sit himself against the tree trunk, which like the grass was uncomfortable to the touch.

"Okay, we're here," Dash said impatiently, irritated by the uncomfortably rough surface of the bark. "So can we go now?"

She stared up at her father and instantly noticed a tear making its way out of his eye, blending with the raindrops as it slipped from his face. The tree undeniably meant something to him—and also likely meant something to her mother as well. She sighed to herself and remained silent, waiting for her father to inevitably tell the story that she was clearly unaware of.

"Your mother and I....we used to have picnics under this tree almost each week," he said, wiping at his face. "And almost every time a rain was scheduled, she wanted to come down here to sit underneath this tree just to watch the raindrops falling."

Rainbow Dash groaned within her head. It annoyed her that as much as she desired to hate being on the ground, she could not help but feel that she was required to pay it more respect since her mother had irritatingly found it so fascinating.

"She had the idea that the rain was simply the clouds' way of showing pain, and that ponies were meant to feel its pain by being soaked by raindrops like we are now, or by being forced to remain indoors," said Rainbow Blaze. "Yet it bothered her that since it never rains in Cloudsdale, its residents never had to feel the sky's pain. And it especially bothered her for the fact that Cloudsdale was often responsible for affecting the weather. So, she simply took it upon herself come down here whenever it rained, as though she wanted to make up for it."

Rainbow Dash raised an eyebrow at her father. Though she had just recently reached six years old, she knew that any such whimsical concepts of clouds being sentient beings or capable of having feelings was nothing more than make-believe.

"It sounds crazy, I know," said Blaze, responding to Dash's skeptical stare, "but that's just what your mother was like. She believed that there was meaning in even the simplest of things. That's also why she loved being on the ground. She just wanted to try and decipher everything."

"Oh," Rainbow said, still not intent to see the ground as anything more than a massive waste of sky space.

"There was a song your mother would sing as she watched the raindrops," said Blaze. "It was a song that she just began singing on the spot one day."

Rainbow Dash looked up at him, her curious eyes expressing an interest to hear the song. Rainbow Blaze cleared his throat, preparing his voice to do something it had not done in quite some time, while he focused his mind on the song's every lyric, none of which had been forgotten in the years since he had last heard it...

"So many clouds scattered across the sky
The softest of pillows lying way up high
Twisted and formed to the whims of a dream
Like fortresses of the heavens or castles of ice cream
Whiter than snow, and lighter than air
Casting shadows everywhere

But today they cry
Today they weep
Today their agony darkens the sky
The sun is gone, the air is cold
Because today they cry

I feel their tears upon my skin
Raining down and down again
The thunder roars a scream of pain
Trembling the wet air through the rain
How I wish to see the sun once more
And the soft, white clouds that I adore

But today they cry
Today they weep
Today their agony darkens the sky
The sun is gone, the air is cold
Because today they cry

If only I knew why
They cry so high
Up, up in the sky
To them I would fly
Just to say 'hi'
And that I would try
'Till the day I die...

...To feel those soft pillows beneath my head
That I will not feel them cry instead
To hope that tomorrow the sun will shine
And those lovely clouds will again be mine

But today they cry
Today they weep
Today their agony darkens the sky
This dark day brings so much pain
And I'll be shivering in the rain
Because today they cry"

He concluded the song with a pair of tears rushing down his face just before he could close his eyes.

"She had such a beautiful singing voice," he said silently. "What I wouldn't give to hear her sing one more time..."

The raindrops striking Rainbow Dash's head no longer bothered her. Her father's pain latched onto her and went straight for her heart, entangling it in an emotional web. Before long, she found her own tears forming and subsequently emerging from her round, crimson eyes.

"I wish I could hear her sing, too..."

Rainbow Blaze wrapped a hoof around his daughter. All at once, the raindrops seemed to slow down around her, and Rainbow Dash descended into the darkness beneath her eyelids as she shivered slightly in the cold.


Rainbow Dash stared at her Wonderbolt uniform folded neatly in its box before she slowly placed the lid over it. The bitterness of seeing it in the box was like several teaspoons of salt being poured on the wound of the failure of her debut. The day she had waited her entire life for had quickly become a day she longed to forget, and the disappointment she felt was so maddening that she could have cried about it for hours. Never again would she feel the sensation of putting the uniform on for the very first time. Never again would she feel the thrill of flying as a Wonderbolt for the very first time. Those experiences were forever tainted in disappointment and regret.

Yet as painful as it was to see the uniform in the box again, at least she knew that she had not worn it for the final time. At least she knew that her bold decision had not cost her Reserves membership after all.

Once the box was closed, Rainbow Dash picked it up and exited the dressing room to meet her friends in the main lobby, including Fluttershy and Twilight who had since returned from their attempt to find her. Before going to the dressing room to change, Rainbow had explained everything to them—how seeing Scootaloo absent among them had inspired her to leave and attempt to restore their relationship.

"Well, I guess that's that," she said to them, without bothering to hide the disappointment in her face.

"I still can't believe you did that," Fluttershy said. Though her tone did not give it away, Rainbow was sure that Fluttershy was more than a bit irritated about having spent the last twenty minutes going to Scootaloo's home in the hopes of finding her there, only to be told that she had already left and was returning to Cloudsdale.

"Me neither," Rainbow said, hanging her head. "But I had to do it."

"I'm sure Scootaloo will change her mind," encouraged Applejack. "She may just need some time to realize what you were willin' to sacrifice for her."

Rainbow Dash did not respond, allowing a silence to persist among them. With her status as a Reserve no longer in question, her mind had since shifted focus to Scootaloo's words which stuck out to her the most:

"Because whether you realize it or not, you own me..."

What did that mean? At what point did their surrogate sisterhood become anything remotely resembling ownership? And what would it take to break that perception?

"Have you....set up another date yet?" asked Rarity's voice, penetrating through the numb silence and Rainbow's thoughts.

"No, I haven't," Rainbow said flatly. "I'm really sorry about this, guys."

"Whatever are you apologizing to us for?" questioned Rarity incredulously. "We're sorry that this day didn't turn out the way you had hoped."

"We're just happy that you're still a Reserve," said Twilight.

"You were all expecting me to hold myself together for this. And I couldn't," Rainbow said with a regretful sigh. "I should have just postponed it in the first place."

"We don't blame you for it," said Fluttershy. "We understand that—"

But Rainbow Dash suddenly brushed past them, moving quickly towards the lobby doors.

"Sorry, guys, but I kinda want to be alone right now," she said without looking at them. "I need to....get myself ready for tomorrow."

No further words were exchanged between them as Rainbow Dash continued moving towards the doors. No one knew how to respond to her disappointment, nor her silent distress. But leaving her on her own still left them with a general unease, as though they were under the impression that the next time they saw her, she would be in a coma again....or even worse. Soon, Rainbow Dash had crossed through the front doors and quickly disappeared from the sight of her friends, each of whom glanced at each other to confirm that they were all thinking the same thing.

Rainbow's mind during her flight home was as silent as the wind brushing past her. Her quick descent nearly made the box slip from her hooves, but the day's events had left her numb to the fact that she was holding it at all. It was still almost impossible to believe that she had risked everything, and yet Scootaloo still remained lost to her—her idea to win her back had failed. Where once Scootaloo had been the only additional attendee of her father's funeral, it now seemed that she would be the only one of her closest friends not attending. But as reckless and brash as her decision to leave the arena had been, Rainbow Dash was certain that were she to go back to the moment where she discovered that Scootaloo was not present, she'd have made the same decision. With her father gone, Scootaloo was the closest thing she had to a family—a genuine sister in every way except blood. She simply meant more to her than becoming a Wonderbolt, a fact that Rainbow would not have known before today.

No matter how much she tried, Rainbow Dash could not see past tomorrow. She could not even begin to imagine how she would feel once her father was floated up in the atmosphere to eventually join her mother and she was all alone, only able to see her parents again from beneath picture frames or in her dreams. How could she even know that the next day would even come? Perhaps all the world, at least in her own perspective, would vanish in the blink of an eye, leaving her in limbo from which there was no escape? Perhaps she truly would need therapy after all...

Rainbow did not bother going through her front door when she arrived home—she simply passed through the cloud wall leading directly into her bedroom. She carefully placed the box inside her closet and then quickly rushed back through the wall again. Home was the last place she wished to be at the moment, especially since she was without any doubt that she was in for another sleepless night which would have been spent staring blankly at its cloud ceiling.

Knowing exactly where she wanted to go, her wings carried her south, far outside of Ponyville, yet not so far that she reached the arid desert. With the town quite some distance behind her, she eventually found herself flying over an empty field of grass, with only a single, solitary tree in sight for an unknowable distance in any direction, still relatively untouched by time and just as boring and uninteresting as she had once perceived it. As she made her descent, her mind was instantly flooded with memories.

There was little doubt that this was the very tree she had taken refuge beneath in her coma dream, desperately trying to escape the rain. As she neared it, she could not help but find it surprising at how her mind had managed to recreate it so vividly. Every branch, every ridge in its trunk had been as accurate in her dream as it was in real life. But the checkered picnic blanket she had relied on for warmth was nowhere in sight. It had passed long ago, along with her mother, who so loved to watch the rain from underneath it.

Along with her father, who had first taken her to this very tree so many years ago...

With a deep breath, she closed her eyes, allowing her mind to succumb to the influence of her memories.


Shivering in the cold, Rainbow Dash continued to sit beneath her father's embrace, and it was not long before she was unexpectedly met with the sensation of her mother's presence as closely as though she were sitting on the opposite side of him, holding her just as warmly as he was. It was a feeling so genuine and real that Dash immediately opened her eyes, half expecting to see her mother sitting with them as though death had generously returned her to the family she had left behind.

Yet they remained alone underneath the tree, and if her mother was with them, it was certainly not in body. Dash looked up at her father, who was staring at the falling raindrops ahead of them with a melancholic expression. Perhaps he was able to feel her presence as well, but knew well enough that it was nothing more than a feeling—a feeling that would eventually pass and leave him with such a bitter emptiness that he would have ultimately wished he had never felt it at all.

In the blissful comfort of the moment, they had not realized that they had been sitting beneath the tree for more than twenty minutes and were just beginning to feel the onset of a cold battling its way through to their respiratory tract.

"Come on, let's go home," her father said, suddenly releasing Dash and standing back up.


Dash's voice was low and brimming with obvious concern—or perhaps even fear.


Rainbow Dash waited a moment before speaking again, not entirely sure if she wanted to know the answer to the question she intended to ask.

"Why....why do ponies die?"

Rainbow Blaze appeared reluctant to answer—she had asked a kind of question ponies never wanted to hear from their children, chief among them being "where do foals come from?"

"Because that's just a part of life, Dashie. All life must come to an end at some point or another."

"So....you're going to die one day, too?" asked Dash, her voice trembling.

Her father looked even more reluctant to answer than before.

"Someday, yes," he replied with a slow nod.

Dash did not respond, and instead looked down solemnly at the wet grass beneath her.

"I wish I could tell you that I won't die until you're all grown up and will no longer need me," Blaze said. "But if that were the case, if life were actually as fair as that, you're mother would still be with us now. The truth is....death can come for us at any time, and it doesn't care whether we're ready for it not."

Dash went silent for a moment, yet her reaction did not indicate that she was learning this information for the first time. It seemed more like she was simply trying to verify what she already knew.

"What---what will happen to me....if you die before I'm grown up?"

This question made Rainbow Blaze even more hesitant than the previous two. He wished to ignore it, but feared that doing so would only increase his daughter's concerns.

"That's not something I want you to worry about," he said as tenderly as he could. "It's a possibility, but that doesn't mean that it's likely to happen."

"I don't want you to die, dad," Rainbow Dash said, wiping at her wet cheeks. "I need you."

Rainbow Blaze managed to conjure a gentle smile from his mouth.

"I need you, too, Dashie."


"I still need you, dad..." Rainbow Dash whispered, her words trembling as they emerged from her mouth.

Just as before, she again felt her mother's presence surrounding her. Yet her father unexpectedly appeared within her mind's eye, standing before her just as he had when they shared their mentally-based conversation. He simply stared at her in silence, rejecting any opportunity to share any additional final thoughts. Instead, he only offered her the same frown she had been given when she told him that she had not yet read his letter...

Suddenly, Rainbow Dash opened her eyes and launched herself into the sky, speedily setting a course for home, her mind dead set on what she was going to do. As before, when she arrived home, she flew straight through the cloud walls of her bedroom, feeling the thrill of both excitement and terror. She rushed to the beside table and picked up her father's letter, ignoring every thought within her which told her that now was not the time.

Because it was the time. She was sure of it.

Before her fear could assume dominance over her body and stop her, she tore open the remaining half of the envelope and removed the piece of folded paper inside...

Chapter 13 -- Today Their Agony Darkens the Sky

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The air had grown so still that the intense pounding of Rainbow Dash’s heart reached her ears as clearly as though it were the deafening roar of a Manticore. Her every breath emerged in slow motion, and it still required nearly every bit of willpower she had not to put the sheet of parchment in her hooves back down on the table and once again choose to save it for another day. There would be no turning back after this. There would be no erasing her father’s dying message from her mind, and once the final word was read, she knew that it would be the last she would hear from him for the remainder of her life.

As her hooves trembled with enough intensity to suggest that she was standing in below-freezing temperatures, Rainbow Dash unfolded the parchment. She proceeded to scan the penmanship without keeping her eyes in place long enough to read any words, verifying that it matched that of the scrawled writing on the back of the envelope. She soon came to the conclusion that it was indeed her father’s own brand of mouth-writing, and nopony else had written the letter.

With her nerves still causing her to shiver to the bone, and her breaths being exhaled in short bursts, she began to read from the top…

Rainbow Dash,

With any luck, I won’t be dead and gone by the time you’re reading this letter. This is all so difficult for me to wrap my head around, and I’m really not sure what I find more unusual at the moment: the fact that I’m writing to you after five years without any contact between us, or the possibility that I’m writing something that won’t be read until after I’m gone.

I’m sitting in a hospital bed right now, more terrified than I’ve been since the day of your mother’s crash. Apparently, there’s some sort of infection killing me from the inside, and the doctors are trying to get to it before it does. They’ve told me that the infection is spreading, and that if they can’t stop it, I could be dead by the day’s end. I can’t even describe how harrowing a feeling it is to go see a doctor, thinking that you’re just going to get a new prescription medicine to treat your cough, but are told that you’re at risk of dying instead. I truly hope you never experience anything like that. Right now, the doctors are prepping me for surgery, and I’ve begged them for a pen and paper to write to you, because if I don’t make it, there are a few things I need for you to know. I would have preferred to tell you these things in person, but that may no longer be an option for me now, and I cannot risk departing from this world before you know them.

There is a reason why I never supported your Wonderbolt dream, and it’s a reason that seems unbelievably shallow to me now. I’m not sure if you’ll believe this or not, but a very long time ago, before I had a cutie mark, I had a goal of becoming a Wonderbolt myself. Much like yourself, I tried to secure myself a place in their ranks from almost the moment I first heard about them. But I couldn't quite bring myself to admit that there were plenty of other colts my age who were much better fliers than I was. In fact, I could barely even keep with them during laps in Flight Camp. It wasn’t until I received my cutie mark that I came to accept that my inclusion into the Wonderbolts simply wasn’t going to happen, and once I had accepted that, I quickly learned that life is all about two things in particular: what is meant to be, and what is not meant to be. Whatever is meant to be will happen, and whatever is not meant to be will not happen, and there was nothing that we could do to change either one.

That’s what I lived my life believing, and so I never set my expectations too high for anything. This way of thinking obviously didn’t leave me with too many friends, and I rationalized that by believing that I simply wasn’t meant to have lasting friendships. But life eventually changed for me by the time I had grown up. I had managed to strike up a friendship that had not only managed to last, but also blossomed into a romance. I got married, and then shortly afterward, I had you. My cynical views of life clashed significantly with your mother’s overly optimistic view, and to this day, I believe that’s exactly what ended up drawing us together. Before I knew it, she rubbed off on me, and I gradually began to change. She allowed me to gain an outlook on life that I had never possessed before. But on the day she died, my whole world came to a sudden crash.

While I’m on this subject, it suddenly occurs to me that I should give you more details on how she died, since if I don’t make it, you’ll never know otherwise. I’m still not entirely sure if I should tell you, and you might actually wish that I hadn’t. Nevertheless, I can't help but feel that I owe it to you. There’s a reason why I’ve always been so vague about her death. The accident that claimed your mother's life occurred while she was performing for you. Watching her fly was something that you often enjoyed, and the crash occurred while she was looking over at you to see that spark in your eye that always filled her with so much happiness. I’ve never told you before now because I feared that you would feel guilty. I just want you to know that I’ve never blamed you for her death, so I sincerely hope that you don’t blame yourself. It wasn’t your fault.

Her death changed me for the worse. I doubt you remember the period that followed, but it certainly wasn’t a good one for me. For a really long time, I no longer wanted to live. I can say with certainty that you were the only thing keeping me alive. I had lost my wife, but I still had my daughter to look after. I still had you to keep me going, and so I kept on going just for you. But with your mother gone, I couldn't help but to slip back to my old outlook on life. I rationalized her death by insisting that I was never meant to be married, and so that’s why I never married again.

As the years passed, watching you grow filled me with joy. I found that you were more than what I needed to live for. I couldn’t have been a prouder parent on those milestone days of your life when you said your first word, took flight for the first time, and even got your cutie mark. And I could only imagine how much your mother would have been proud of you as well.

But then the next thing I knew, you were following directly in my hoofsteps. You wanted to become a Wonderbolt, and you were doing even more than I had to reach that goal. I was placed in a difficult position, a position which I had no solution for. I was convinced that, like me, you were only setting yourself up for an inevitable disappointment. I was fully convinced that if becoming a Wonderbolt hadn’t been meant to be for me, it was not meant to be for you either. So I did what I could to turn you away from that path, hoping that you would eventually grow out of it and pursue something else for a career. But then you performed a Sonic Rainboom and got your cutie mark, and before I—

The writing ended abruptly as Rainbow Dash reached the end of the paper. She quickly turned it over and was surprised to see that the back was also filled with text from top to bottom. She resumed reading without bothering to take the time to reflect on anything she had read thus far.

—knew it, your dream to become a Wonderbolt was stronger than ever before. At that point, I realized that there was probably little I could do to dissuade you. But I quickly found myself overcome with an emotion I had never expected: envy. That's right, I envied you, Dashie. I refused to believe that your Sonic Rainboom was anything more than a lucky mistake, and I even felt a sort of satisfaction that you struggled to perform it again. I couldn’t begin to understand or make sense of the fact that you were such a better flyer than I was, and even as I write this now, I still can’t. But it’s true, nonetheless. You are the best flyer I have ever seen, Rainbow Dash, and I honestly don’t know how you’ve managed that while you had my genes working against you. I didn’t want to admit it back then, but you were definitely more suited for the Wonderbolts than I ever was.

Back then, it was far too embarrassing for me to admit to myself that I was envious that my own daughter was a better flyer than I was. But it didn’t stop me from envying you anyway. My attempts to turn you away from the Wonderbolts was no longer about trying to save you from inevitable disappointment, but it was instead about trying to save myself from the humiliation that my own daughter could accomplish what I couldn’t. That’s something I never should have done, and even though this is coming much later than it should have, I sincerely apologize to you for it.

When you had finally decided to leave, I knew that at long last I was finally losing you, too. So I chose not to fight it. I chose not to do anything to save our relationship because I thought that this was yet another thing that was simply meant to be. I had come to the conclusion that in the end, I was always meant to end up all alone. In fact, I was even willing to accept that I probably wouldn’t ever see you again. But with you gone, and my days becoming lonelier and lonelier, I eventually decided to defy that notion. I decided that regardless of whether it would end badly or not, I would make an attempt to strike up a new relationship, or rather, an old one. I got back in touch with Wind Lily, a pony whom I had hired to take care of you back when you were a foal. Having somepony else in my life made things better, and even made it easier not to think about you as the years wore on. But I could barely deny that I began to miss you. My darn pride wouldn’t allow myself to admit it, but I came to understand how wrong I was for shooting down your dreams purely out of my own envy. Sometimes I would find myself missing you so much that it would hurt, but I never wanted to make an attempt to find you. I figured that I would wait on you to come back yourself. I decided that I wasn’t going to force myself back into your life and try to coerce you into forgiving me, no matter how much I needed it. And even now, I’ve decided against letting you know that I’m in the hospital, about to undergo surgery. Perhaps that was a mistake, but it’s all the more reason for me to hope that I make it out of this alive.

My time and paper space is running short now, so I need to wrap this up. If I die, I’ve asked to have a picture of Wind Lily I carry with me enclosed within this letter so that you’ll know what she looks like and how to find her. Our old house will be left to you in my will, but since I assume you won’t want it, I ask that you turn it over to her. She’s expressed a desire to move, but she’s a bit financially unable to do so. I’m sure she’ll appreciate it. And besides, I’d really like to leave her a token of my gratitude for her friendship all these years.

Dashie, if I make it out of this, I’m going to pay you a visit after I recover, so get yourself ready to see me again. And if I don’t make it out of this, then I wish you luck in becoming a Wonderbolt, and I hope you enjoy a longer and more prosperous life than my own. I love you, Dashie, and I’m sorry.

The world around Rainbow Dash seemed to fall dark and silent as the final word written on the parchment was absorbed by her eyes and subsequently nestled into her brain. What followed was an unrelenting numbness overtaking her legs, causing them to collapse before it then rushed its way through her body so deeply that she would have believed that she would never have the ability to feel anything ever again. At almost the same time, the most potent emotional pain she had ever felt in her life ripped through her skin and bones with violent aggression. Her every organ seemed to cease all function—her heart no longer pumped blood, her lungs no longer drew air, her brain fell entirely still. For all she knew in that moment, her life was being drained away as she sat there in silence, and she was too far in a daze to notice it.

The letter slipped out of Rainbow’s weakened hooves and slightly dug itself into her cloud floor. There was so much she was now forced to wrap her head around that her mind urged her to give up before it could even make an attempt. It would surely take an indeterminable amount of time to fully process, to accept, and ultimately to live with for the rest of her life.

Rainbow Dash slowly crawled into her bed as her ducts gathered what seemed like gallons of salty droplets awaiting release. As her head reached the pillow, the sound of her wailing was all that she could hear, and the warm tears stained her cheeks and added an additional coating of red to her crimson eyes. There was nothing she could do to stop herself, no matter how much she hated the sound of her own crying, no matter how much she hated how much the tears stung as they fell. Yet with her father’s final words still lingering prominently in her head, crying was the only thing she desired to do in that moment, as the tears and wails emerged like fragments of her emotional pain gradually ebbing away, and even the slightest bit of relief from that pain was something that she was unquestionably desperate for.

Hours passed Rainbow Dash by as she remained curled up in her bed, and by the time her sobs had died down to slight whimpers and her ducts were cleared of the tears they had worked so rapidly to produce, the sun was in the process of making way for the night, and the light and warmth in her room was sinking down into nothingness. She still felt unable and unwilling to begin processing the content of her father’s letter. Where would she even start? The revelation to how her mother truly died? Her father’s admission of his envy? The genuinely heartfelt closing? Or the general nature of the letter, which ultimately turned out to be the exact opposite of what she had expected since the moment she had received it?

Rainbow Dash threw a blanket over herself, fully obscuring her face from what little traces of sunlight still reached her room. She desired to remain there in complete silence, hidden away from the world without thinking about the letter, without thinking about anything…

“Um, Rainbow Dash?”

Fluttershy’s voice emerging from the other side of Rainbow’s blanket took her by surprise, as there had not been a knock on her door, or at least one that she had heard.

“Um, I know you said you wanted to be alone, but it’s been a few hours and I just wanted to see how you were doing,” she said, justifying her presence.

Rainbow did not speak—her throat still felt too numb to formulate words.

“Rainbow Dash, are you okay?” Fluttershy asked, and the closeness of her voice indicated that she had moved nearer to the bed.

She turned on the light, and Rainbow instantly responded by snapping her eyes shut from beneath the blanket, as though she felt that seeing even the smallest inch of light would call forth her every undesirable need to start reflecting upon the letter. With the light on, Fluttershy quickly caught sight of the loose sheet of parchment lying on the floor near the bed and the fully open envelope lying on the bedside table.

“Oh...you read your dad’s letter…”

She could not quite yet determine whether this was good news or not, but Rainbow's lack of response appeared to suggest the latter. Roughly five minutes passed as Fluttershy waited for Rainbow Dash to give some acknowledgement her presence, but Rainbow remained without any intention to part from whatever sense of security she felt underneath her shield from the light. The longer Fluttershy waited, the more she was tempted to read the letter for herself, even despite her earlier position.

“Rainbow, are you asleep?” Fluttershy asked, surprised that this had not occurred to her before. She gently pulled the blanket away, and Rainbow irritably twisted around and buried her face within a pillow, gripping it with her hooves as much as she could to prevent Fluttershy from cruelly stripping her of another sanctuary of darkness.

“I'm sorry, Rainbow Dash,” Fluttershy said, taking the action to mean that Rainbow Dash still wished to be left alone. “I guess I'll just go now.”

Rainbow Dash finally responded with an agonizing groan. As much as she wished for Fluttershy to leave her in peace, Rainbow inexplicably felt that she did not want to be left alone with no one to help ease her pain.

Mistaking the groan as a non-verbal expression of pain, Fluttershy immediately turned Rainbow Dash over onto her back, quickly checking her body for any physical injuries, and then her face for any emotional injuries as indicated by the presence a hopelessly grim expression.

“Are you alright?” she cried, noticing the extra bit of red in Rainbow's eyes.

Finally exposed to the light, Rainbow Dash no longer felt like hiding herself from it again. She rose from the bed while casting Fluttershy a look of unsubtle scorn for forcing her into what she had desperately wished to escape from.

“Rainbow Dash, what’s going on with—?”

Fluttershy's voice was left to die in her throat as Rainbow Dash unexpectedly hurried out of the room without breathing a single word, still holding scorn within her face. She descended down to the kitchen, grabbed the final bottle of cider from her refrigerator, and took a seat at the table, with Fluttershy joining her moments later.

“Umm, what are you doing?” Fluttershy said, watching her friend with a cocked eyebrow.

But Rainbow Dash continued to ignore her as she took several swigs from the bottle, emptying nearly half of it without a single concern that she would be without cider until the fall. The sweet, apple-flavored drink was heaven to her throat, and she felt an unapologetic bliss with each and every mouthful she swallowed. For the first time in the last few hours, she finally had something else to think about besides the letter and her ominous feelings towards the funeral, still looming so closely on the horizon. It took no small amount of effort to set the bottle back down, and once it was sitting upon the table, Rainbow Dash finally turned her attention towards her neglected friend.

“I really needed that,” she said lazily, the cider having washed the numbness in her throat away.

Fluttershy stared her down with a disapproving look, which immediately filled Rainbow Dash with irritation.

“I’m not okay,” Rainbow said, her head shaking slowly. “And I’m not going to be okay.”

Fluttershy sighed to herself and took the seat at the table opposite from her. “Is there anything I can do to help?”

Rainbow Dash did not answer for over a minute as she stared at the bottle, silently debating to herself whether or not it would have been better for her to simply go on and empty it all down her throat. Her mind had already begun to reflect on the letter, and a sudden revelation struck her like a horn being maliciously thrust into her gut.

“Both of my parents are dead because of me….”

Fluttershy blinked with alarm. “What?”

“It’s been my fault since the very beginning,” Rainbow said, lifting her eyes to meet Fluttershy’s confused stare. “I caused my mom’s accident. She was performing for me...and that’s how she died. And as for my dad....maybe I’m responsible for what happened to him, too. Maybe his infection happened because of all those years that he spent missing me...or something like that. Maybe if I had gone back to visit him from time to time, he’d still be alive now.”

“Wait, slow down,” Fluttershy urged, having lost nearly all comprehension of Rainbow's rapidly-paced words almost right from the beginning. “What exactly are you saying? How is this your fault?”

“In my dad’s letter, he finally told me what caused my mom’s fatal accident,” Rainbow Dash replied, now speaking slower and with more clarity. “And...it was me. She was performing for me. She was making sure that I was enjoying the show she was putting on for me, and that left her distracted. That’s how she crashed….and that’s how she died.”

Fluttershy stared at her for a moment, then shook her head. “Well, that’s not—”

“And my dad. I think that’s my fault, too,” Rainbow continued, ignoring her. “What if I was the reason he was sent to an early grave? What if he was missing me so much that his body just couldn’t handle it anymore?”

“No, Rainbow Dash, that’s not true!” Fluttershy cried, shaking her head incredulously. “Neither of your parents' deaths are your fault!”

“Well, I can’t blame anypony else,” Rainbow replied, with a disagreeing shake of her head.

“There’s no one to blame!” Fluttershy cried.

“Then why do I feel so guilty?!” Rainbow asked, staring dead into Fluttershy’s face, her eyes glowering with an equal display of sorrow and frustration. “Why do I feel like it’s my fault?!”

“You’re just punishing yourself,” Fluttershy said, somewhat fearful Rainbow Dash’s demeanor. “Your parents wouldn’t want you to do that.”

“Well, I deserve it, don’t I?” Rainbow questioned bitterly. “It’s not like I’ve done anything this past week but make a lot of choices that have done nothing but get me to the point where I don’t even want to get out of bed anymore.”

“No, you don’t deserve it,” Fluttershy replied sternly. “You don’t deserve to believe that you’re at fault for your parents’ deaths when they were both simply random tragic occurrences that had nothing to do with you.”

Rainbow Dash did not respond, and her eyes focused upon the remaining cider in the bottle, which she would have easily classified as “half-empty.”

“You know, when it comes to animals, I’ve always found it interesting how differently many of them treat treat their young,” Fluttershy said, causing Rainbow Dash to raise a confused eyebrow at this unexpected change of topic. “Many animals will protect their young however they can, just like we ponies do, but not all animals do that. Some animals, like certain bears, actually leave their young to let them to survive on their own, usually within only weeks of their birth. Sometimes their young aren’t ready to survive on their own, and they often die because they’re unable to nourish themselves properly or shelter themselves properly. But as terrible as that sounds, it gets even worse. Some animals actually eat their own young.”

Fluttershy convulsed slightly as though she felt that her last sentence had been like poison rolling off her tongue. Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes. She realized that all of this information was relevant to a point Fluttershy was trying to make, yet she still wished that it would come sooner.

“There are a few reasons why they do it, but the most common reason occurs when the mothers are in a position where they know that they can’t protect their young,” Fluttershy continued after a moment. “When lean winters come and there’s no food to be found, they have to make a choice. Either the mother and her young both die of starvation, or the mother can save herself and live to try again with another child. It may sound awful to us that these animals would choose to put their own lives above the lives of their children, but it’s a logic that makes sense to them, just like it’s a logic that makes sense for us to sacrifice our lives to save our children.”

Fluttershy ceased speaking for a moment, and Rainbow Dash avoided meeting her gaze.

“If your mother had been faced with the choice of saving herself and saving you, which do you think she would have chosen?” Fluttershy asked, having finally arrived at her point.

“Me, I guess,” Rainbow answered with a sigh. “But that doesn’t mean I would have wanted her to die for me.”

“It’s never an easy choice,” noted Fluttershy. “But most parents would rather die than lose their children. Maybe you can’t understand that now, and I wouldn’t expect you to unless you one day have children of your own.”

Rainbow Dash picked up the bottle of cider and took another large swig before slamming it back down on the table, frustrated that the sweet apple-flavored drink was no longer easing her pain as it did before.

“You can’t blame yourself,” continued Fluttershy. “As I told you before, not everything is your fault. What happened to your mother wasn’t your fault, and what happened to your father wasn’t your fault. At some point, you're going to have to learn to stop tearing yourself apart over what you’ve done, or what you shouldn’t have done, or what you wish you had done. It’s in the past, and there’s nothing you can do to change it now. All you can do is focus on the present. Sooner or later, you’re just going to have to learn to move forward.”

Once again, Rainbow Dash did not bother with a response as she turned her head towards the window. The evening had since fully transitioned into night, and she already dreaded seeing the sun again, knowing that it would bring about a day that she would quickly want to forget, yet one that she knew would surely stay embedded within her memory for the rest of her life...

“How have you been eating lately?” Fluttershy asked, causing a sudden change in subject yet again. “I mean, you barely touched your breakfast this morning and yesterday, too.”

“I just...haven’t been hungry much, I guess,” Rainbow replied with a shrug.

“Well, how about I cook us up some oatburgers?” Fluttershy asked with a hopeful smile. “Maybe a good meal will help take your mind off things?”

“Sure,” Rainbow said with a nod, though her voice carried little enthusiasm.

“Alright, then,” Fluttershy said, still smiling as she rose from her seat and went straight to work, pulling two patties of mashed-together oats from the freezer then placing them on two separate skillets.

It was not long before the sizzling patties filled the kitchen with the scent of an enticing meal, but it did little to sway Rainbow’s thoughts about how much she wished that her father had decided against disclosing the details of her mother’s death to her, even if it meant taking it to his grave. Now that she knew what really happened, how could she possibly not think herself at least partially responsible?

Nevertheless, there was nothing she could do about it now. As Fluttershy had said, it was all in the past, and there was no way she could change it...

...or was there?

“Do you think there’s any chance that Twilight could send me back in time?” Rainbow asked suddenly. “I mean, we know she went back in time once before, right?”

The question had come so unexpectedly that Fluttershy nearly knocked one of the skillets off the stove as she turned herself around.

“Umm, I think she only could do it once,” she replied, the question filling her with unease. “If I recall correctly, she mentioned something about the time travel spell only having a one-time use.”

“Well, what if I found another unicorn who could do it?” Rainbow suggested hopefully. “Do you think that would work?”

“Um, well, I don’t know, Rainbow Dash,” Fluttershy said, her voice heavy with nervousness as she suddenly realized that the question was not simply hypothetical. “Why do you ask?”

“If it’s possible, I want to go back in time and save my mom’s life,” Rainbow answered with a flat tone of voice that seemed to trivialize the gravity of her answer. “I think it could probably work.”

The answer struck Fluttershy with a sensation equivalent to Rainbow taking one of the hot skillets from the stove and hitting her over the head with it.

“I….I don’t know what to say,” she replied in disbelief. “That doesn’t exactly sound like moving forward. In fact, it sounds like just the opposite.”

“What if I could save them?” Rainbow questioned. “What if I could grow up with both of my parents? What if my life could have turned out differently? What if there’s a chance that I don’t have to face tomorrow after all?”

Fluttershy was so stunned by Rainbow’s words that she barely noticed that the two oat patties on the stove were both long overdue for a flip.

“I really think this might be possible,” Rainbow asked with an excited grin beginning to spread across her face. “My dad told me in his letter that my mom was able to change his negative attitude about life. If I save her, he could turn out differently himself. And maybe I could even save his life, too...somehow.”

Fluttershy turned her attention back to the oat patties and hastily flipped them over, still not sure what to say or even think.

“How—how would you save her?” she asked. “What are you planning to do?”

“I would go back to the day she died and tell her not to perform for me anymore,” Rainbow answered with unbridled confidence. “And not only would I be saving her life, I would actually be meeting her for the first time!”

Fluttershy was numb to Rainbow's growing excitement, and simply attempted to concentrate her focus on the patties. She waited for the moment when Rainbow Dash would take several steps back and realize just how crazy she sounded, but her faith in the plan seemed to suggest that it was not coming.

“I want to go see Twilight right now!” Rainbow said enthusiastically, nearly jumping from her seat. “She should be able to tell me whether or not this is possible, and she might even be able to direct me to a unicorn who could send me back!”

“Wait!” Fluttershy cried as Rainbow fully removed herself from her seat. “Are you….are you absolutely sure that this is something you want to do?”

“If it means that my mom could still be alive today, and that I won’t have to go to my dad’s funeral tomorrow, then yes, it is,” Rainbow Dash replied with a manner of sincerity that Fluttershy could not deny.

“But Rainbow Dash, time travel is...it’s too risky, even if you’re using it to save somepony’s life,” Fluttershy pointed out.

Rainbow Dash retracted at her response, lifting an eyebrow slightly to imply her lack of understanding as to why Fluttershy intended to stop her.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, what if you ended up changing something you don’t want to change?” asked Fluttershy. “What if you never move to Ponyville? What if we never become friends?”

Rainbow Dash stroked behind her head as she pondered on this. Knowing that her father had been the driving force behind her decision to leave Cloudsdale, there was indeed no guarantee that she would have ever moved to Ponyville had her mother survived. Yet somehow, it was a possibility that seemed to dwindle when stacked against the alternative of growing up with her mother.

“I would be able to meet my mom,” she said softly. “That would mean everything to me....”

Fluttershy lowered her ears and turned off the stove, looking sorrowfully at the thoroughly-cooked oat patties which she was now certain would not be eaten by either of them.

“Well, if that’s what you want…”

The disingenuous nature of her tone did not go missed by Rainbow Dash, who raised an accusatory eyebrow. “You don’t want me to do it, do you?”

Fluttershy silently lifted the two cooked oat patties and set them on two wheat buns on two separate plates before answering.

“I’m sorry, but it just....seems a bit reckless,” Fluttershy said. “What if you end up doing something that you can’t take back? I just don’t think you should jump right into this. I think you need to take some time to think about it.”

Rainbow Dash sighed with annoyance and sat herself back down at the table. Her mind had been made up from the moment the idea popped into her head, and even in spite of any potential risks on the table, the thought of choosing not to go back in time and save her mother now filled her with an overwhelming sense of anxiety.

“You don’t know what it’s like to want your mother so badly that you can’t stand it,” she said solemnly. “You don’t know what it’s like to stare at a single picture of your mother for so many years of your life and wish that you could have had the chance to know her. You don’t know what it’s like to forget the feel of your mother’s touch and never remember it again. You don’t know what it’s like to miss that so much....”

Fluttershy said nothing as she decorated the patties with veggies and condiments, still fully convinced that it was a meaningless effort. Nevertheless, preparing a meal that would go uneaten still seemed to be the superior option to looking directly into Rainbow’s hopefully optimistic eyes as she shot down her borderline insane idea.

“If there’s a way…don’t you think I owe it to her to try?” Rainbow asked, hoping to finally hear a response of approval.

Fluttershy did not answer before bringing their plates over to the kitchen table and sitting back down in her seat.

“I’ll say that I believe you deserve to meet her,” she replied. “It wasn't fair that you never got the opportunity to grow up with your mother, and I understand that. But….changing the past? I’m sorry, but I just can’t see that ending well.”

Rainbow Dash huffed with frustration and stared down at the oatburger underneath her nose, which still appeared appetizing enough despite knowing that her stomach was far too restless to digest any food...

“What if we never become friends with you?” Fluttershy asked in a mournfully desperate voice while she ignored her own burger. “There’s a chance that if you do this, we’ll never have the chance to meet you.”

Fluttershy's concerns did not fall on deaf ears, and Rainbow Dash gradually felt her enthusiasm fading as she considered them. However, she merely gritted her teeth in response. There was surely nothing Fluttershy could possibly say to change her mind, so why did she insist on showing her no support?

“What if I can’t handle this anymore?!” Rainbow cried, scowling at her. “What if I’m tired of not seeing my life past tomorrow? What if I just want this pain to end now?”

“The pain won’t last forever,” Fluttershy insisted. “Sooner or later, you'll learn make room for it and you'll start enjoying life again.”

“But that time isn’t now, and that’s the point,” Rainbow said bitterly. “How long is 'sooner or later?' I’m not even sure I could make it through another week!”

“We can help you!” Fluttershy replied desperately. “Even if you need us to stay with you overnight, you know that none of us would have any problem with that!”

“What if that's still not enough?!” Rainbow said as she slammed her hoof down on the table, causing the bottle to fall over and the remaining cider inside to spill out and leave a golden stain. “When my mom died, my dad only had me to live for. What if I don’t have anything to fill my own emptiness, especially if Scootaloo never forgives me?”

“You have us!” Fluttershy cried reassuringly. “There are so many ponies who care about you. You have your career as a Wonderbolt, which you're only just starting. You have so much to keep you going, and I, for one, am not going to let you be consumed by pain!”

Rainbow Dash gritted her teeth even tighter, still more than certain that she could not dissuaded, but now lacked any further drive to continue arguing about it. She looked over at the spilled cider on the table and sighed, realizing that she would have nothing else to distract her from her anxiety.

“Couldn't you just sleep on it?” Fluttershy asked. “Make your decision tomorrow. I think you should also tell our friends and see how they feel about it. If you're going to be making a decision that could probably exclude you from their lives, don’t you think you owe it to them to let them know?”

Rainbow’s frustration exited her body with a deep sigh. “Fine.”

“Thank you,” Fluttershy replied with an appreciative nod. “I just want you to realize how big a decision like this is. It's not one that can just be made without taking a long time to consider it.”

Rainbow looked down at her oatburger again, falling into silence as she begun to imagine what life with her mother would be like. She thought about every last moment in her young life when she had spoken with her mother's picture for solace, and had little capacity to imagine just how incomparable they would have been to the genuine tenderness and love she would have received from those moments had her mother been there in person. There would have surely been a night and day's worth of difference...

“Umm, by the way, you wouldn’t happen to have any flowers would you?” Fluttershy asked suddenly.

Rainbow looked back up her, utterly confused as to why she would ask this question. “What?”

“Well, if you choose to have the funeral after all, you’ll need some flowers to style your mane with, right? I’ve already told our friends about it and they'll be getting some themselves.”

Rainbow Dash had forgotten all about Cloudsdale’s funeral custom, but the idea of having flowers weaved into her mane somehow seemed unbelievably degrading.

“No, I don't,” she answered tiredly.

“Well, I’ll get some for you in the morning, then,” Fluttershy said. “You know, just in case.”

“Thanks,” Rainbow Dash said with a nod, and then to Fluttershy’s surprise, she picked up her oatburger and took a large bite, no longer able to maintain her immunity towards its alluring sight and scent.

“Rainbow Dash, I want to help you, I really do, but I’m just not sure your idea is feasible,” Fluttershy said sorrowfully, her oatburger remaining untouched. “If ponies could just go back in time to save their loved ones from dying, I think we would have heard about it happening more often.”

Rainbow gulped the chewed bits down her throat. “Maybe, but I still have to know for sure whether or not it’s possible. I just have to know.”

“I understand,” Fluttershy replied with a single nod, then finally dug into her own burger.

The exchange of words between the two pegasi was minimal as they consumed their dinner and Fluttershy gave her close friend a much-appreciated hug before returning home, leaving Rainbow Dash to prepare herself for what she was certain would be the longest and most sleepless night of her life.


The therapeutic image of blissfully circling around the massive face of the moon occupied Rainbow’s thoughts as she stared at it, having allowed her mind to take a blissful rest from the endless reflecting and debating she had been doing for several hours in her unpleasant state of sleeplessness. In the hours that had passed since Fluttershy’s departure, as her excitement gradually wore itself away, Rainbow Dash had come to realize just how unrealistic her plan to save her mother's life seemed. The sheer difficulty of finding a unicorn who could cast the spell, let alone one who would be willing to waste their only opportunity to travel through time on her, and the unsettling notion that she would simply be postponing her mother's death, rather than preventing it entirely, both lent themselves to the ostensibly unquestionable ridiculousness of the plan. It almost made her feel as though she were just a filly, rife with naivety, holding onto an uncast wish as she watched the sky night after night in the hopes that a shooting star would streak across it, only to eventually lose hope that she would ever see one.

If there was any part of her mind that still believed in the idea’s feasibility, it was now focused entirely on the question of how differently her life would have turned out had her mother survived. She was certain that she would still be just as dead set on getting into the Wonderbolts, yet she still could not deny the validity of Fluttershy’s concerns. If her father had never pressured her into leaving Cloudsdale, it was entirely possible, perhaps even likely, that she would still be there. And what would that mean, not only for her, but for all of Equestria itself? Without moving to Ponyville, she may never have become the Element of Loyalty, and for all she knew, Equestria would be war-torn and almost entirely decimated around this time in an alternate future. Would there be another pony who could wield her Element? Or would fate somehow lead her to Ponyville regardless of whether her mother survived or not?

Meanwhile, as much as she struggled not to think about the letter, her father’s final words to her still managed to ring through her head as strongly as though they had been shouted directly into her ear. She was beyond any doubt that she would not have believed her father had written a single word of it had she not recognized his mouth-writing, but what she had read was almost enough to give her the impression that she had never truly known him at all. The notion that he had once attempted to become a Wonderbolt himself was borderline impossible to believe after the many years he had attempted to tear down her dream, insisting how impossible it was and how she was simply wasting her time. It was almost just as impossible to believe that his own envy was what drove his efforts to turn her away from them, as she would have likely believed it to be among the last of his reasons why. How did he manage to hide those envious feelings so well? How was she supposed to feel about him now that she knew the truth…?

The only sense of solace the letter offered her was sitting comfortably right at its closing, where it would likely to bring tears to her eyes each and every time she read it. She could not even recall the last time she had heard her father had expressed love for her in person—with their relationship growing more and more strained in the weeks before her departure, he had not exactly been willing to show her any great deal of affection. She was warmly comforted by the words, even if she could never return them...

Rainbow Dash groaned as she continued to look upon the face of the moon, fully aware that she clearly needed more time to process these thoughts than what the night was going to provide her. What time was it now? How many hours before Celestia would bring forth the dawn? She dared not look at a clock. For now, she was simply satisfied that the moon still showed no intention of giving up its spot in the sky in favor of the sun, letting her know that she still had more time, however little it was.

With a silent sigh of reluctance, Rainbow crossed over to the other side of her bed and stared face-to-face with her mother’s picture, which had since become almost too painful to look at now that she knew the circumstances behind her death.

“What do you think I should do?” Rainbow asked the frame, forcing a hopeful smile. “I’m sure you’d be happy to be alive again, wouldn’t you? I’m sure you’d love to have the chance to watch me grow up, right?”

As always, her eyes scanned every corner of the photograph as she waited for her mother’s response—the feeling of positive affirmation that she always received whenever asking her mother a question. But to her utter surprise, it did not come. Instead, it was replaced with an entirely different sensation, one that wiped her hopeful smile directly off her face and ensured that she would not simile again anytime soon. There no way Rainbow Dash could have interpreted the hollow emptiness and vacant emotion she felt in that moment as anything other than her belief that her mother was vehemently rejecting the idea.

“I could save you!” Rainbow replied with desperation. “You could be alive today, right now! You could have been here with me in person through all those times when I’ve needed you in my life. This is possible!”

Her mother’s opinion did not seem change, and Rainbow Dash quickly regretted asking her at all. She bit down hard on her lip while confusion and anxiety took hold of her expression. Why would her mother refuse? Did she not want to be saved? Did she not want to see her daughter again and live a full life with her? Or could it be that, like Fluttershy, her mother also did not want her to change the past as a substitute for moving forward with her life?

Suddenly, as though her mother’s refusal had managed click on a light bulb from within her head, Rainbow’s idea to travel back in time no longer just seemed unrealistic to her, it now seemed downright childish. She was overwhelmed by the realization that it was nothing more than fruitless wishing, akin to that of a filly wishing for a massive snowstorm to occur overnight in the hopes of school being cancelled the next day, despite the fact that the season had since shifted well into mid-spring. It was something that was never going to happen, no matter how much she wanted it. And now, whether Rainbow Dash was willing to admit it or not, she realized that there was simply no escape from having to endure a last look at her father’s deceased body before he would be raised into the sky to join the millions that departed the world before him….including her mother.

How foolish she must have seemed as she enthusiastically pitched the idea to Fluttershy, only to be left angry that her closest friend did not support it….

As swarms of droplets returned to her eyes, Rainbow Dash stared solemnly back into her mother’s face, having accepted at last that she would never have the chance to look upon it from outside the borders of a photograph....

“I’m so sorry, mom,” she said, trembling with helplessness. “I’m so sorry I can’t save you...”

She turned away from her bedside table as she felt her heart bleeding from inside, urging her on for another well-warranted cry. She threw a blanket over herself and curled up underneath it just before a series sobs rushed to accompany fast-moving tears, and she could do nothing more than reflect painfully upon the empty excitement that the prospect of saving her mother had filled her with just hours ago. To think that she had actually been willing to accept the possibility that the endeavor would leave her growing up without ever knowing the friends she loved so dearly...and even Scootaloo….

For better or worse, Rainbow Dash fully understood that there was nothing that could save her from what was going to transpire within the next eight hours. There was nothing that was going to stop her life from moving forward, now without either of her parents…

As the tears poured out relentlessly from her eyes, Rainbow began to shiver, her body feeling colder and more empty than she could ever recall it being before.


Rainbow was still shivering as the dawn made itself visible, putting an abrupt end to a night of tears and brief periods of uncomfortable sleep. The first glimpse of the sun urged her to bury herself underneath her blanket as she had before, vainly hoping that the night would continue on if she simply refused to acknowledge the morning had come. It managed to work for an additional two hours, but came to an end once Rainbow Dash heard an unwelcome knock at her door, finally forcing her to accept that not even her blanket could save her from the new day. She groaned with displeasure, knowing that much like the sun itself, the pony at her door would not be going away anytime soon.

Kicking the blanket off of her body with irritation, Rainbow clambered out of bed and made her way to the bathroom, splashing cold, refreshing water on her face in an effort to hide her lack of sleep. She then slowly descended the stairs to answer the new day's call.

Once more, Rainbow Dash found herself staring into Fluttershy’s face. A small basket of flowers was clasped within her hoof, which Rainbow immediately identified once she saw their wing-like petals.

“I have the flowers. Are Birds of Passion okay?” Fluttershy said as Rainbow Dash looked at them.

“I guess so.”

“I suppose you’ll be needing me to do your hair, then,” Fluttershy noted. "That is, unless you’ve decided that there won’t be a funeral today.”

Rainbow sighed, and wordlessly stepped to the right of the doorway to allow Fluttershy’s entrance.

“So, umm, have you made a decision?” Fluttershy asked nervously as she followed Rainbow Dash into the kitchen, where she took one of the chairs from the table and carried it into the bathroom.

“Just forget that I ever brought it up,” she said as she took a seat in full view of the mirror. “It was a dumb idea, and I guess I was feeling too desperate at the time to realize it.”

“That’s a relief,” Fluttershy replied with a smile, “especially since it wasn’t possible anyway.”

Rainbow blinked as Fluttershy began working to weave the weightless bird-like flowers through her mane. “How do you know it’s not possible?”

Fluttershy appeared hesitant to answer, and waited until she had weaved the first flower in place before doing so.

“Twilight told me that unicorns can only send themselves back in time, not others. The time travel spell involves memories. You can only travel back in time so long as you’re traveling to an event that you can remember. Since no other unicorn has your memories, it would have been impossible to send you back in time. And besides, you don’t have any memories of the day your mother died, do you?”

Rainbow Dash was immediately gripped with worry at the fact that Fluttershy knew this information. “So...does this mean that you talked to Twilight last night?”

“No, actually....I’ve known about this for a while now,” Fluttershy answered with even greater hesitation. “A few months ago, one of my poor badger friends drowned in a lake while trying to learn how to swim. I asked Twilight whether or not there was a way to send me back in time so I could save him, and that’s when she told me it was impossible.”

The recollection of this event forced a temporary break in Fluttershy's work, and she wiped at her moistening eyes while Rainbow Dash’s own eyes narrowed into a fierce, unforgiving glare.

“Well then why didn’t you tell me that last night?!” she demanded, nearly rising from her seat in anger. “Why did you let me get my hopes up for nothing?!”

“I’m sorry, Rainbow Dash,” Fluttershy said, frowning with shame. “I know it was cruel, but….I wanted to know what your choice would be if you believed that it were possible. I was hoping you would realize on your own just how crazy an idea like that was. And, well, I’m relieved you did.”

Rainbow unslanted her eyes and shook her head, feeling an inexplicable desire to slam her head down upon a nearby table.

“I probably wouldn’t have believed you, anyway,” she admitted as Fluttershy resumed weaving. “I probably would have thought you were lying just to convince me not to do it. I was just so desperate about the idea of meeting my mom…”

“Well, if it makes you feel any better, I don’t fault you for bringing the idea up,” replied Fluttershy. “I understand why you had to know for sure. That’s exactly how I felt when I went to Twilight to save my badger friend. If you don’t mind my asking, what was it exactly that made you change your mind?”

Rainbow tightened her lips together. She was certainly not ready to let Fluttershy know about her private chats with her mother’s picture...

“I just….I decided that giving up my friends was just too heavy a cost. Even if it means my mom survives, I don’t want a new life where I never meet you or any of our other friends. It’s just too much.”

Fluttershy smiled with satisfaction at her answer. She continued weaving her way down Rainbow Dash’s mane, inserting each Birds of Passion flower tightly enough so that they would not be at risk of flowing away in a heavy wind.

“Do you still feel responsible for your parents’ deaths?” Fluttershy asked once she fitted the fourth flower in place.

“I don’t know,” Rainbow answered, shaking her head. “I guess that was also just a feeling that I had in the moment. My dad said in the letter that he doesn’t want me to blame myself for what happened to my mom, so...I guess I shouldn’t, at least for his sake.”

“No, you shouldn’t,” Fluttershy affirmed. “And you shouldn’t blame yourself for what happened to him, either.”

Rainbow did not respond and turned her attention towards Fluttershy’s work, appreciative of her efforts. Just a little over a week ago, she would have thought that being seen with flowers woven through her mane would have presented a dire threat to her hard-earned reputation. But that somehow seemed like a lifetime ago now, back when preserving her self-image was among the few petty things she once thought truly mattered to her. Nevertheless, wearing flowers still seemed like an exceedingly dull funeral custom.

“Rainbow, I think I owe you an apology,” Fluttershy , initiating a new conversation. “I had no business forcing my opinion on the relationship between you and your father and telling you what you should do.”

Rainbow Dash raised an eyebrow. “What are you talking about?”

“The other day, when we had that talk….back when I told you that you shouldn’t be looking for satisfaction and should instead be looking to repair your relationship with your dad. I think I went too far. It did nothing but make you uncomfortable about telling me that he died, and also make you think that I would judge you for never going home to see him again.”

“You don’t need to apologize. You really helped me on that day,” Rainbow said, then sighed. “I really should have just told you then. I actually almost did, but...something stopped me. I had already decided that I wasn’t going to tell any of my friends. I just didn’t want to make anything out of it because I thought I was going to be able to get through it easily. I didn’t know at the time how wrong I was…”

Fluttershy frowned. “Well, I’m glad to hear that I helped you, at least.”

“By the way, you’re still going to speak at the funeral, right?” Rainbow questioned, suddenly remembering that she had asked to do so.

“Umm, well, yes,” Fluttershy answered, shifting nervously as though she had just realized for the first time that she would soon be speaking in front of others.

“What are you going to say, anyway?”

“You’ll just have to wait and see,” Fluttershy answered with a sly wink.

Rainbow said nothing more to allow Fluttershy to concentrate on what she was doing. Within the next few minutes, the final flower was woven in place near the bottom of Rainbow’s mane.

“Okay, all done,” Fluttershy said, taking a step back from the chair. “I think you look nice.”

Rainbow Dash swayed her head left and right in the mirror as she stared at the nine Birds that now nested in her hair. She could not deny that Fluttershy’s work had been competently done—the Birds of Passion both blended and contrasted with her rainbow-colored mane, and she could not see even the slightest trace of the stems.

“Uh, thanks,” she said with genuine gratitude.

“You’re quite welcome,” Fluttershy replied. “I’ll get Rarity to do my mane. You can go ahead and get ready. We’re meeting at Twilight’s place before we leave for Cloudsdale.”

Rainbow Dash took a deep breath and shook her head solemnly at her reflection in the mirror.

“Are you okay?” asked Fluttershy.

“I just….can’t believe this is finally happening.”

“I’m sorry,” Fluttershy said, spreading her forelegs apart to initiate a hug, but Rainbow pretended not to notice it.

“This is something we all have to do at some point,” Fluttershy said as she lowered her legs. “I’m sorry to say, but this won’t be the last funeral you’ll attend in your lifetime, nor mine.”

Rainbow nodded wordlessly.

“Just take all the time you need,” encouraged Fluttershy. “You know where to meet us.”

She exited the bathroom and then exited the house while Rainbow Dash continued staring motionless at the Birds of Passion in her mane through her sullen visage in the mirror.


By nine o’clock, the new day had been embraced by all of Equestria, and an active Ponyville bounded underneath a crisp morning sky. Within the bark walls of Golden Oaks Library, Twilight was staring into the dressing mirror in her bedroom, looking at the bright red peonies being weaved through her mane by Spike, who was standing taller than usual, elevated by a tiny stool.

“Um, why do I have to do this again?” the young dragon asked as weaved yet another flower in place.

“It’s a tradition, Spike,” Twilight answered. “Pegasi have been weaving flowers in their manes at their funerals since Princess Celestia and Luna were fillies.”

“Oh,” Spike replied, suddenly more grateful than ever before that he did not possess a mane.

“Just keep working. You’re doing a good job,” Twilight said as she smiled at her reflection.

Spike grinned proudly at the compliment. The sound of Twilight’s approval made him even more focused on his task, so much so that he barely noticed the sound of the front door opening from below, nor the sound of hoofsteps subsequently climbing up the stairs.

“Oh, Rainbow Dash,” Twilight said, almost stunned to see her arrive first. “You look great!”

Rainbow looked down at the dark blue mourning dress covering her body, which was mostly plain except for some rainbow-colored patterns surrounding each of its seams and openings. It was a dress Rarity had given her on the last Hearth’s Warming, and had never been worn before now.

“Umm….thanks,” she replied with noticeable discomfort which was further displayed in her slightly flushed cheeks.

“So...how are you feeling?” Spike asked before stopping himself to think about whether or not that was a question he should be asking.

Rainbow barely held back a sigh, hoping that she would not be repeatedly asked this same question from each one of her friends as they arrived, or any of the other funeral attendees.

“I don’t really know,” Rainbow answered, shaking her head. “I just hope I’ll be able to keep it together throughout this whole thing.”

“‘Keep it together?’” Twilight repeated almost incredulously. “Rainbow Dash, this is your father’s funeral. You have every right to cry as much as you want, and you wouldn’t be impressing anypony if you didn’t cry at all.”

Rainbow Dash pursed her lips bitterly. She was beyond sick to death all the crying she had been doing lately, and felt even more averse to doing it in front of a small crowd of ponies whom she was sure would be observing her every action during the funeral.

“Yeah, well, I'll just...let you guys get ready,” Rainbow said to deliberately dodge a reply, then trod back down the curved steps and into the base floor of the library.

She waited in silence, feeling a set of icy chills trailing down her back at the revelation that the funeral was only a mere short hour away. In her state of anxiety, each passing minute seemed to last twice as long, and by the time Rarity and Pinkie Pie burst through the front door, she felt as though she had been waiting a full half hour.

“Rarity did my hair!” Pinkie exclaimed with excitement, as though she had completely forgotten the reason for which she was all dressed up. “You like?”

Rainbow took a moment to examine the attire of her two friends. Rarity’s mourning dress was almost entirely black, and a matching veiled hat nearly obscured the white orchids sitting in her indigo mane. Pinkie’s gown was crimson red, which she seemed to wear with the expectation that she would be hosting a party with more of an elegant flair than what she was accustomed to. Her dark pink mane glowered with yellow daffodils.

“Yes, Miss Pie, it is quite lovely as I’ve told you,” Rarity said, rolling her eyes.

Rainbow Dash was surprised to find a smile attempting to overtake her dour expression, but Rarity affectionately threw her forelegs around her neck before it could.

“I hope you know that we’re here for you, darling,” Rarity said, her eyes welling up.

“Yeah, I know, Rare,” Rainbow replied softly. “Thanks.”

The next of their friends to arrive were Applejack, Apple Bloom, and Sweetie Belle after another ten (or perhaps twenty?) minutes had slowly ticked away. Like Pinkie and Rarity before them, they were each dressed appropriately for the occasion—Applejack was fitted in a country plain green-and-red dress, and scarlet roses within her golden mane accounted for the lack of her trademark stetson. Apple Bloom still wore her signature bow, but bright blue bellflowers clashed spectacularly with her mane, and even greater still with her platinum-colored mourning dress. Sweetie Belle’s flower of choice was the pansy, and her mane was radiant with the flower’s multiple colors, while the color of her dress matched that of her eyes.

“Hi, Rainbow Dash,” Apple Bloom said, the first of them to speak. “We’re really sorry to hear about your dad.”

“Yeah,” Sweetie Belle added with a nod. “And sorry, but we couldn’t get Scootaloo to come. We’re not sure why, but she…”

“Don’t worry about it,” Rainbow said, cutting them off before they could say too much. “I...I knew she wasn’t coming.”

The two fillies appeared more than a little curious, but said nothing more about it. Applejack gifted Rainbow Dash with an apologetic smile accompanied by a gentle touch on the shoulder, but it did little to make her feel better about Scootaloo’s absence.

“Fluttershy's out renting the balloons that will be lifting us up to Cloudsdale,” said Rarity. “I’m sure she’ll be along shortly.”

At last, Twilight and Spike finally descended the stairs and joined them, both fully dressed like everyone else. Twilight’s mourning dress was a spring blend of yellow and sky blue, while Spike sported the same black jacket he wore at most of the formal events he attended, cleaned and ironed. His head was free of any flowers.

“Is it time to go?” asked Spike.

“We’re just waitin’ on Fluttershy,” replied Applejack.

“I’d better cast the cloud-walking spell on you fillies,” Twilight said to Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle.

Rainbow Dash turned her attention back towards the library's front door, paying no mind to the magical flashes that emerged from Twilight’s horn as she gifted the two young ponies with temporary pegasi abilities. A fleeting hope had just emerged within her that Scootaloo would have a last minute change of heart and would be coming through the door next. Rainbow could barely tolerate the notion of enduring the funeral while she knew that her relationship with her surrogate sister was in no better condition than that between herself and her father...

Another unknowable stretch of time moved forward as Rainbow kept on waiting with only the faintest of hope and expectation of Scootaloo's arrival. Yet when the library door opened again, it revealed a thoroughly dressed and flower-maned Fluttershy accompanied by no one, especially not Scootaloo...

“The balloons are waiting for us. We’re all set to go,” she said to the entire room, stepping through the doorway to show off her teal mourning dress and the multicolored carnations in her mane. “Unless…there's anypony else coming?”

Every eye in the room looked to Rainbow Dash for confirmation that Scootaloo would indeed not be joining them. She averted her eyes away from their intrusive glances, thinking only about how much she desired to crawl back underneath her covers and stay there for the remainder of the day….and probably for several more subsequent days as well.

“She’s not coming,” Rainbow affirmed silently, almost as though she were speaking to herself. “Let’s just go.”

There was barely a word of response as they all exited Twilight’s library and began a slow trot over to the hot air balloon rental station a few blocks away. Rainbow Dash kept her head down as she walked, hoping that their formal attire and flower-decorated manes would not draw the attention of the Ponyville residents out on their daily business. To her relief, the ponies who crossed their path paid them little mind, but any hope she may have had of Scootaloo rushing up to join them was quickly extinguished as they passed by her silent house.

Once at the station, Rainbow Dash entered the first balloon she saw and was joined by Applejack, Apple Bloom, Pinkie Pie, and Fluttershy while everyone else entered a second balloon. Pressed up against the basket’s edge, Rainbow could not stop herself from looking over the side as they ascended, only to have all remaining hopes crushed again to see that Scootaloo was not hurrying over the them, desperate not to miss her only ride to Cloudsdale. She was simply nowhere in sight….


The ascent to Cloudsdale was cold, windy, and lacking in conversation. Much like Ponyville, the great sky city was also bustling with morning activity. As the two balloons both came to a halt upon the surface of the docking cloud, the eight ponies and dragon emerged from their baskets. Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle both exchanged uneasy glances about walking upon the airy cloud surface, but they were quickly relieved to not find themselves falling through as they took their first steps.

“So where are we headin’?” questioned Applejack.

“The cemetery is this way,” Rainbow replied, motioning to the west. “There are small open spaces between the plots where Cloudsdale funerals are normally held.”

With their destination in mind, the company strode silently in the direction of the cemetery. The Cloudsdale pegasi paid them almost just as little mind as the Ponyville residents had, but they did get a more than a few raised eyebrows after Rarity let out a frightened squeal, having nearly walked off the cloud’s edge due to her distraction with a portable mirror as she checked her mane thoroughly to ensure that none of her orchids had blown away during their windy ascent.

When they neared the cemetery gate, Rainbow Dash nearly froze to see Grimmtock standing directly outside. In the week since he had informed her about her father’s death and subsequently given her the letter, she had since come to associate him as a harbinger of unpleasantness.

“Ah, Rainbow Dash,” he said, quickly noticing her amongst the group. “Head over to the space between the east quadrant plot. The rest of your party is waiting for you.”

Rainbow bit her lip. She knew east quadrant plot was where her mother’s headstone was located, and now it would surely be where her father's stone would be located as well...

Grimmtock promptly opened the gate for them to enter, and they each did so without giving him much acknowledgement. When they arrived at the gap between the plots in the east quadrant, Rainbow Dash was nearly taken aback by what she saw. Three small rows containing ten seats each and a front row containing only two were positioned in a straight line, filled with more ponies than Rainbow had expected to see in attendance. Wind Lily was seated in the row second from the back, just beside six fully-uniformed Wonderbolts which included Spitfire, Soarin, Blaze, and Fleetfoot. Raindrops and Meadow Flower were sitting in the row just ahead of them, situated to the far right side as though under the impression that all of the seats to their left were reserved. But the presence of Princesses Celestia and Luna was the biggest surprise of all, both of whom were sitting silently in the back row as though attempting to blend in as ordinary, unimportant guests. The front row was unoccupied.

Centered just in front of the seats was a podium, and behind it was an altar whereupon lay a cloud-like casket complete with a hoof-stitched pall, which immediately set Rainbow’s nerves ablaze the second she caught sight of it. Seated to the left and right sides of the altar were four pallbearers, none of which she knew.

All idle chatter between the attendees was extinguished almost as soon as Rainbow Dash’s arrival was made apparent. As Rainbow’s friends dispersed to find their seats, Celestia and Luna immediately started towards her, becoming the first in a queue of ponies who were rushing up from their seats to do the same. Neither of the two princesses carried any flowers in their endlessly flowing manes, which Rainbow assumed was due to the probable difficulty of getting their manes to remain in place long enough to weave flowers into.

“You have our deepest condolences, Rainbow Dash,” Celestia said in her usual graceful tone. “And we want you to know that we have covered any and all funeral expenses for you.”

Rainbow almost raised a confused eyebrow. Funeral expenses was not something that had even crossed her mind before now.

“Uhh, thank you for coming,” Rainbow replied, and then, to her own surprise, she chuckled. “I can only wonder what my dad would think if he knew that the princesses of Equestria were attending his funeral. He never really thought himself as anypony important.”

The two princesses managed a chuckle as well, poorly hiding the subtle discomfiture they felt towards the remark.

“Um, if you don’t mind me asking, how did you know he had died?” asked Rainbow.

“We keep informed about our subjects, Rainbow Dash,” answered Luna. “We are informed about every birth as well as every death.”

“Oh, well, I….didn’t know that,” Rainbow replied, not wanting to think about how daunting a task it would be to keep track of all life in Equestria. “Anyway, thank you again for being here.”

The two princesses offered her a respectful nod before returning to their seats, allowing for the next two ponies in the queue, Raindrops and Meadow Flower, to approach her next. Raindrops’ mane was covered in pink-and-red petunias, while Meadow Flower remained true to her name by sporting white-and-yellow daisies, picked from a nearby meadow earlier that morning.

“I hope you’re not angry at us,” Meadow Flower said apprehensively. “We had to pry into your business a bit to learn about your father’s funeral today.”

Rainbow shook her head, curling her mouth into a tiny smile to appease Meadow’s concern. “No worries. I really appreciate you guys for coming.”

Raindrops cast her eyes down for a brief moment, then looked back up at Rainbow tentatively.

“Rainbow Dash, I….I’m really sorry I was such a jerk to you yesterday. I was just worried that you would end up outshining us in our debut, and so it led me to lashed out at you. You really didn’t deserve that.”

“It’s all right,” Rainbow said, still maintaining her smile. “No hard feelings, Raindrops. We’re cool.”

Rainbow Dash held a hoof out towards her, and Raindrops promptly bumped her own hoof against it.

“I look forward to flying with you as a fellow Reserve,” she said with a grin.

“So do I,” Rainbow replied, nodding.

Raindrops and Meadow then returned to their seats, revealing Wind Lily to be the next pony in line, her mane moderately scattered with multi-colored lilies.

“Well, this is quite the unexpected turnout,” she said with surprise. “I certainly hadn’t anticipated to meet the Princesses today, nor was I expecting the Wonderbolts to be here. You’re definitely more popular than I thought.”

“I guess so,” Rainbow Dash replied as her smile finally faded.

“How are you feeling?” Wind Lily asked, noticing the change in her expression.

“I....read his letter,” Rainbow said, shifting her mouth uncomfortably.

“Oh, I see,” Wind Lily replied. “And…?”

“Did he ever tell you that he once wanted to become a Wonderbolt?” asked Rainbow.

Wind Lily’s eyebrows shot up, which was more than enough of a response to give Rainbow Dash the answer she was looking for.

“No, he didn’t. That actually comes as quite a surprise.”

“I know,” Rainbow replied, nodding. “But now that I think about it, it just explains so much: why he was always so bitter about life, why he took every chance he could to shoot my dreams down…”

“I’m sorry,” Wind Lily replied, tenderly touching her shoulder.

“I wish he would have told me,” Rainbow Dash lamented, expelling a sigh. “I don’t know if it would have changed anything or not, but...I don’t know, maybe I would have felt differently...”

“Maybe, but it’s no fault of yours,” Wind Lily replied comfortingly. “It was his choice not to tell you. You shouldn't feel any guilt over that decision.”

Despite her response, Rainbow Dash groaned with frustration. “The last thing I really needed right now was another reason for me to regret never seeing him again...”

“I just said that it’s no fault of yours,” Wind Lily repeated. “Your father should have told you about it, and I don’t think that envy was any good reason for him to put your dreams down. I can only hope that he offered you an apology in the letter?”

“He did,” Rainbow said with a slow nod.

“Well, at least he did that much. In any case, it's not something you should feel any guilt over. You certainly weren't wrong to pursue your dreams,” Wind Lily replied.

Rainbow Dash refused to continue the discussion further, opting not to allow her numerous regrets to overwhelm her before she was staring face-to-face at her father’s body again, or watching it float up to the atmosphere above.

“Hey, umm, I never told you this before, but…”

“Yes?” Wind Lily said, her head tilting slightly to the side.

“Thank you for being there for him. Thank you for being the friend that he needed. There were times when I would imagine him all alone in that house and feel really guilty about it, at least until I remembered the reason why I moved out. I’m glad that I won’t have to imagine that anymore. I’m glad that he...didn’t die in loneliness,” Rainbow said with a solitary teardrop putting the period on her final sentence.

Wind Lily smiled, her own eyes beginning to moisten over.

“You’re very welcome, Rainbow Dash.”

They shared an affectionate hug, then like the others before her, Wind Lily returned to her seat while the six Wonderbolts in attendance simultaneously approached Rainbow next. Each of them bore only a single Birds of Passion flower, weaved near the top of their manes that projected out from beneath their cowls.

“I have to admit, when Spitfire told me that she wanted to attend, I didn’t think all of you would be coming, too,” Rainbow said, trying to force a chuckle which failed to emerge as anything more than a huffed breath.

“We wanted to be here for you, Rainbow Dash,” said Soarin.

“You are one of us, now,” said Fleetfoot.

Rainbow nodded with satisfaction at their words. “Thanks.”

With either a sorrowful comment, or a physical touch on her shoulder, each of the Wonderbolts gave Rainbow Dash some form of acknowledgement before moving back to their seats in the third row.

“Um, Spitfire…?” Rainbow called out nervously as the Wonderbolt captain was returning to her seat.

“What do you need?” Spitfire asked after turning back around.

“There’s, uh, something I want to—hey! What are you—?!”

One of the pallbearers had suddenly appeared beside Rainbow Dash, wordlessly took her by the hoof, and led her almost forcefully to one of the two seats in the front row, just in front of her friends, who now occupied the eight seats beside Raindrops and Meadow Flower. Spitfire simply shrugged casually and sat herself back down, apparently deciding that whatever Rainbow had to say could wait until the funeral was over.

Standing at the podium was a stout pegasus stallion, dressed in an entirely dark suit and looking even more grim than Grimmtock himself. Rainbow Dash quickly realized that he was the funeral host, whom she had chosen back when she was lackadaisically planning the funeral, knowing absolutely nothing about him other than that he was highly recommended.

“If we’re all present and accounted for, I think it’s time for us to get started,” he said in a dry voice once the pallbearer had returned to his seat beside the casket.

Rainbow felt apprehensive about sitting in the front row. She could already feel the eyes of each and every pony behind her as they observed her every move, and from the front, the funeral host and the pallbearers also seemed to keep her directly within their line of sight. She wondered who the second seat was intended for, and its emptiness only served to remind her of Scootaloo’s absence.

“We’ve gathered here today to celebrate the life of Rainbow Blaze, tragically taken from us sooner than we could have expected,” said the host. “Forty-four years of age, son of the now-passed Sky Wonder and Rainbow Drop, husband to now-passed Sunstreak Shine, and father to Rainbow Dash. Let us now take a moment of silence for the deceased.”

Everyone immediately fell silent, with every head bowing respectfully. In the silence, Rainbow Dash's uncomfortable feelings about being so close to her father’s lifeless body were greatly intensified, and they were worsened still after a faint sobbing had broken out from behind her—Rarity had already begun to descend into tears.

When the silence had persisted for over a minute, the host began to speak again, this time appearing to recite something from a sheet of paper in front of him:

“‘We have been given the freedom to roam the air
We have been given the freedom to shift the clouds
We have been given the freedom to control rain and snow
But on a day like today, our freedom is at last relinquished
And so must we return to the sky that gave it to us
To rest forever in the legacy of those who passed before
And to sadly leave those we hold dear behind until such another day arrives

But when we finally return to that unknowable place
We know we will feel no more pain
We know we will feel no more sorrow
And we know we will not go unforgotten
The madness of life shall not reach us there
Nor shall the burdens of mortality
And our souls shall instead remain at peace and harmony
For as long as time turns years into ages and ages into eons.’”

The moment he stopped reading, every head rose up almost simultaneously, now exhibiting faces which were significantly more dour than they had been before.

“Thank you,” said the host. “At this time, we will have our eulogies. Should anypony wish to say some words, feel free to do so. You are welcome to speak for as long as you require.”

Most of the attendees suddenly appeared hesitant, knowing that they would be unable to give any eulogy that would not simply consist of the usual condolence speech. Rainbow Dash turned to look at Fluttershy, but the nervous pony was shifting about anxiously, hoping that just about anyone else would step up to speak first. Much to her relief, Wind Lily rose from her seat and floated over to the podium while the host stepped aside. She exhaled a few deep breaths before speaking, preparing both herself and the attendees for a eulogy heavy with emotion for the deceased that almost none of them possessed.

“When Rainbow Blaze was admitted to the hospital, both of us thought that whatever he had was just a passing thing. I had suggested that perhaps he simply needed some stronger allergy medication or some flu medication. There was almost no reason for us to expect that there was anything life-threatening about his illness. After he was checked in, I left the hospital, believing that he would be ready to be discharged by the time I saw him again...”

She paused to catch her falling tears as they escaped from her ducts.

“It really does take something like that to remind you how fragile life is, and how quickly and unexpectedly it could end. Each and every time we part ways with our friends and family, we never tend to think that we may have just seen them for the last time. We all know that there will come a day when we will have to say goodbye forever to those we love, but none of us expect that moment to be right around the corner. I certainly didn’t….”

She paused again for the same reason as before, struggling to keep herself from breaking down the longer she kept speaking.

“Rainbow Blaze was a troubled pony. His life wasn’t exactly what you’d call a happy one. He had a defeatist way of thinking, and that’s something he never truly managed to moved past permanently. But over the last few years, he was an irreplaceable friend to me. He was somepony I could rely on, and he was somepony who relied on me to get him through his hard days. I will miss Rainbow Blaze, and I will look back upon the last few years we spent together with fondness and love.”

With that, Wind Lily stepped off the podium as her tears became too numerous to wipe away, returning to her seat within the small crowd of mourners, each of whom appeared slightly more saddened after listening to her short speech.

“Would anypony else like to say any words?” the host asked after returning to the podium, and once again found himself staring at hesitant faces within the silent crowd.

After realizing that no one else was going to step forward, Fluttershy finally rose to her hooves with a significant deal of reluctance and made her way towards the podium. Rainbow Dash cast her a comforting look as she passed by, but Fluttershy returned her a look pure terror, such as the kind she always bore whenever she desired nothing more than to either hide herself or fly away...or both.

“Umm, good morning,” Fluttershy began nervously after she reached the podium. “Well, umm, I mean...it’s not a good morning, but I was just….I just thought...”

Fluttershy appeared to grow more nervous with every word that sputtered from her mouth, and Rainbow Dash was almost certain that she was just moments away from removing herself from the podium and sitting back down, pretending as though she had never even stood up at all. But Fluttershy instead allowed herself a pause to ease her tension, fighting her hardest against each and every instinct that begged her to fly off and hide underneath the nearest bed.

“I only met Rainbow Blaze a few times when I was younger,” she began with only little nervousness in her voice. “I wish I could say that I knew him better. I wish I could say that we had been on good terms. And I wish I could say that his loss has affected me more than it has.”

Fluttershy took another few more focused breaths before speaking again, surprised that she was able to fend off her fear as well as she was.

“He wasn’t unkind to me, but as I recall from our few interactions, I’m not really sure he approved of me much. I had always assumed that was because he knew that Rainbow Dash had been suspended from Summer Flight Camp for choosing to defend me. Even today, most of what I really know about him is what Rainbow Dash has told me. But I would have really liked to know him better. Because back when I was a filly, I wanted to know exactly who the the kind of father was that had raised not only the best flyer I had ever seen, but also one of the most compassionate ponies I had ever met. I wanted to know exactly who had raised the pony who had every reason to mock and ridicule a weak flyer like I was, but chose to defend me instead, even if it came at the cost of her own popularity. I wanted to know who it was I owed my gratitude to for bringing into this world the pony who helped me receive my cutie mark and who has been such a needed friend for me ever since. And if Rainbow Dash’s character can give any notion of the kind of pony Rainbow Blaze was, if her values and her morals are ones that she inherited from him, then his loss is truly a tragedy for all of us.”

She took another brief pause, and the audience of attendees nodded their heads and muttered with approval. Rainbow Dash coerced a smiled to her lips as Fluttershy’s eyes met hers, displaying both subtle embarrassment and appreciation at her remarks. Meanwhile, Rarity’s light sobbing had gradually spread to the rest of her friends, as well as a few other mourners, including Meadow Flower and Soarin.

“This is a hard day,” Fluttershy continued. “It’s a day when we’re sometimes torn up by regret, wishing that things had turned out differently, or wishing that we had done just a little more—made that much more of an effort. It's a day where we may blame ourselves for things that are out of our control, even going as far as to wish that we could turn the clock back just to have that one last chance to try again. But it never helps to feel that way, and it certainly doesn’t help our lost loved ones when they look us and see how much we’re suffering. In life, there is only one direction all of us can truly move, and that’s forward. No matter how difficult it can be to move on, it’s something that we must find the courage and the willpower to do. One day, be it a month or even a year, the pain and regret will end, either because we make room for it, or because we learn to move past it. One day, we will be able to smile again and continue enjoying life. We’ll never forget those we’ve lost, but we will bring them peace to know that we’ve managed to find a way to move forward. And nothing would bring them greater comfort than to know that.”

At last, Fluttershy stepped away from the podium, looking particularly accomplished with herself at having made it through her eulogy without permitting her nervousness to get the better of her. As before, the attendees showed their approval for her speech, with most even praising it with a few well-earned hoof-claps.

“Is there anypony else who would care to say a few words?” asked the host, now looking directly at Rainbow Dash as though he expected her to give a follow-up eulogy.

But Rainbow lowered her head to avoid looking back at him. There was nothing she could even think of saying, and she certainly did not believe that she could make it through a full eulogy without breaking down after only a few words. The host waited for nearly a minute before it became clear that no one else was going to come up to speak.

“If there are no more remarks, then it is time for the final viewing,” the host said. “If all of you will, please remove one flower from your mane to place upon the casket.”

The mourners rose to their hooves simultaneously and formed a line at the right side of the rows, pulling one flower out of each of their manes as instructed. The six pallbearers also stood up, and one of them neatly folded half the pall back from the front of the casket, then opened it meticulously, exposing the lifeless body of Rainbow Blaze inside. Without any flowers to give, Celestia and Luna remained sitting respectfully, while Twilight removed two of the peonies from her mane to give one to Spike.

With the casket open, Rainbow Dash felt all the strength in her body being sapped away, and she nearly collapsed to the ground as she felt her eyes becoming wet again. Her father was indeed lying there, resting motionlessly, his flesh lifeless and necrotic. His eyes were closed and all color had vanished from his body, as well as the rainbow mane she had inherited from him.

All eyes fell upon Rainbow Dash to approach the casket first, but she lacked any strength or motivation to take a step, or to even lift herself with her wings. She knew that she was headed for the last face-to-face reunion that they would ever have—the last time she would ever see her father in the flesh. The very notion was enough to make her feel lightheaded and prone to passing out right where she stood.

Before Rainbow could express any refusal to approach the body, a soft and comforting hoof clutched hers, attempting to urge her towards the casket. Through her tears, Rainbow could see an identifiable filly standing beside her, and when she wiped her eyes dry, she found herself staring face-to-face at Scootaloo, dressed in dark green with only two small sunflowers in her mane, which appeared to have been hastily inserted.

Was this real, or was her mind, still overloaded with grief and regret, tricking her in the cruelest way she could imagine? Scootaloo’s touch seemed far too authentic to be something her mind was capable of conjuring up, but her sudden and unexpected appearance also seemed too improbable to believe, particularly since no one else seemed to be acknowledging her. Surely Scootaloo had to be back at home right now, doing whatever she could to distract herself from the fact that she was deliberately missing the funeral. After Rainbow’s failure to reconcile with her yesterday, how could she possibly be here now?

Rainbow Dash was thrust out of a daze as Scootaloo suddenly tugged on her foreleg, still trying to get her to move towards the casket. Rainbow finally shuffled her hooves to her father’s body with all the coordination of a pony who had taken one too many licks of salt, still unconvinced of whether or not her once-surrogate sister was truly standing by her side. Her eyes were refreshed with another onslaught of tears as she stopped to take her final look at him, his stiff, motionless, and colorless body being almost unbearable for her to witness. She forcefully pulled one of the Birds of Passion from her mane and set it upon the casket, then peered regretfully at his close eyelids as though she could see his eyes from underneath.

Nothing she could tell him now would ever be heard. No attempt to take anything back or apologize would be ever be acknowledged. How was it that he could be so close, and yet so impossibly far away?

Rainbow Dash felt her cheeks going wet, which was promptly followed by her mind falling entirely blank, leaving her unable to think of any final words to say in their final reunion. The memory of the last time she looked upon his face before leaving home for Ponyville flashed through her thoughts repeatedly. There was nothing she would not have given to return herself to that time and rush back inside the house to repair their relationship before it would be left broken forever....

“I’m sorry...” she whispered to her father with the desperate hope that he could somehow hear it.

With no further words left to offer him, Rainbow Dash’s grief burst open within her heart, and she descended into a fit of silent sobs so intensely that she barely felt her hoofsteps as Scootaloo led her away from the body. By the time her vision cleared and her mind snapped back to focus, she found herself sitting back in her seat while the rest of the attendees proceeded to pay their respects, leaving their flowers upon the casket as they passed. Scootaloo was sitting in the previously unoccupied seat next to her, looking forward at the mourners and trying not to pay Rainbow any mind.

“Um...hey,” Rainbow said, drying her eyes.

“Hey,” Scootaloo replied, still without looking at her.

“I...uh...I thought you weren’t coming?” she said, now convinced that she was not talking to an imaginary figure.

Scootaloo turned her head slowly, staring back at her with disingenuous eyes.

“Don’t read into it too much,” she said harshly. “I still haven’t forgiven you.”

“So why did you come, then?”

“Because I figured that if I ever do forgive you, I’ll probably end up regretting not being here today,” answered Scootaloo. “I figured I might as well spare myself that.”

Rainbow Dash felt only indifference towards her response. “So...does that mean you believe that you’ll forgive me one day?”

Scootaloo neglected the question and shifted her eyes back towards the mourners as they examined the body within the casket, placed their flowers, and then returned to their seat.

“I need to know what you meant when you said I ‘own’ you,” Rainbow said before a long silence could persist between them. “What does that mean?”

“You see me sitting here, don’t you?” Scootaloo answered with a huff. “That’s what it means.”

Rainbow said nothing, but Scootaloo immediately sensed her confusion and heaved a sigh, realizing that she was indeed going to have to explain what she felt should have been obvious.

“I just helped you over to your dad,” she said, looking at Rainbow sternly. “I did that even though I’m still angry at you. And that’s exactly the point. I’m still so desperate to cling onto you as the pony I’ve admired for so long, and because of that, I feel like I may never reach a point where I can ever truly be angry at you. Don’t you see that’s the kind of hold you have over me?”

Rainbow Dash again offered no reply as Scootaloo’s words left her with the sensation that she had been kicked in the teeth.

“It can’t be that way,” said Scootaloo. “I have to know that I can be upset with you without knowing that I’ll just come running back whenever you need me to. And I can’t have you thinking that I’ll always forgive you right on the spot just because you want me to. Otherwise, what’s to stop something like this from happening again?”

Rainbow's face went blank as she studied Scootaloo's words. “I’m sorry I’ve made you feel that way. But if that’s really how you feel, then you shouldn’t have come.”

“I only came because you’re only going to lose your dad once in your life,” replied Scootaloo. “I’m not here because you asked me to be here or because you want me to be here.”

“Well, why did you take me over to him?” questioned Rainbow. “I didn’t ask you to do that.”

Scootaloo pursed her lips. “No, you’re right, you didn’t. And maybe I shouldn’t have, but it was just something I did in the moment.”

“Well, are you still going to hold that against me?” asked Rainbow. “Is that another example of my...‘hold’ over you?”

“No,” Scootaloo answered at once. “Look, it’s not like I don’t care about you anymore. I thought you were in need of help, and so I helped you. That’s all it was.”

Rainbow sighed, willing to take any measures necessary to diffuse the tension between them. “What do I have to do? Could you please just tell me what I have to do for us to get back to the way we were?”

“Give me time,” answered Scootaloo. “I need time to forgive you. You still just don’t understand. Before this week, I didn’t think there was anything I wouldn’t have done for you. And now I just feel like you exploited that. I feel like you took our relationship for granted. It’s all just really hard for me to sort through right now, and I just need more time to do it.”

Rainbow Dash hung her head and nodded slowly. “I’m really sorry, Scootaloo.”

Scootaloo did not reply. One after another, Rainbow’s friends gradually returned to their seats in the second row, each refusing to acknowledge Scootaloo’s sudden presence to allow them a chance to speak.

“By the way, umm, how did you get here?” Rainbow asked.

“I begged somepony for a helicopter ride,” Scootaloo answered, then heaved a sigh. “I wish I hadn’t missed you guys. It’s still more than a little embarrassing as a pegasus to still need a ride up here.”

“We didn’t think you were coming,” said Rainbow Dash. “I mean, you did tell me you weren’t...”

“I know,” replied Scootaloo. “The point is, I changed my mind.”

“By the way, Scoot, I’m really sorry about your mom. I understand now why you were always so reluctant to talk about your family. I wish I had—”

“Thanks,” Scootaloo said almost emotionlessly. “But I don’t want to talk about it right now.”

Rainbow Dash nodded in understanding, and they spoke no more as they watched Soarin and Fleetfoot, the last of the mourners to view the body, place their Birds of Passion atop the casket and sit back down. At that time, one of the pallbearers slowly closed the casket and neatly folded the pall back over it, taking extra care not to cause any of the flowers to fall.

Rainbow’s stomach churned the moment the casket was closed and her father vanished beneath the cloud. Their final reunion had thus come to a permanent end. She would now be forced to say goodbye forever to the last of the family she had, the foolish dream she had clung onto for so long, and every single remaining moment in her life that would go unshared between them...

“We’ve gone now as far as we can go,” the host said once he returned to the podium. “But before we send our dearly departed friend to his final resting place, he made a request that I believe should be honored. He requested that a certain song to be sung by his daughter Rainbow Dash as he is lifted to the sky above. He ensured that she will know exactly which song he is referring to, ”

Rainbow immediately felt as though her bones had frozen over before being mercilessly shattered with the strike of a sledgehammer. In her state of grief, so excruciating that she could have believed her world was coming to a gradual end, how could she possibly be expected to stand up in front of so many ponies and sing her mother’s song, which up until now had been so private and personal to her?

“Will you?” the funeral host asked, casting her a serious look.

Feeling that she lacked any choice, Rainbow Dash stood up and floated over to the podium while each of the pallbearers lifted up the cloud-casket from the altar, releasing it from the invisible barrier of magic which kept it from floating away prematurely. They carefully moved it just in front of the rows of seats, where everyone present could see it clearly, then stood by, patiently waiting for Rainbow Dash to begin singing.

Rainbow shuddered with anxiety, wishing that her father had not put her on the spot like this. Had he truly expected that she’d be so unaffected by his death that she’d be willing to sing without any risk of breaking down? She looked over at each of her friends for encouragement, all of whom returned approving nods and smiles. But Scootaloo simply stared at her blankly, no longer willing to offer her anything more than her continued presence.

With a series of long, steady, and focused breaths, Rainbow Dash closed her eyes in an attempt to forget where she was and what was going on around her before she began to sing as clearly as she could.

“So many clouds scattered across the sky. The softest pillows lying way up high. Twisted and formed to the whims of a dream. Like fortresses of the heavens, or castles of ice cream…”

Finally, the pallbearers released the cloud-casket simultaneously. Slowly, with pall and flowers intact, it began to rise further up into the sky, and every head in the audience raised to watch it ascend.

Rainbow’s eyes remained closed, keeping her mind focused on the lyrics of the song while she imagined herself sitting back under her mother’s favorite tree, where she had heard it for the first time, with her father looking at her with tender affection as she sang him to his final rest. The audience of mourners sat silent and still as they continued to watch the casket float up into the blue atmosphere until it disappeared from all sight.

“...This dark day brings so much pain, and I’ll be singing in the rain. Because today they cry.”

With the song ended, Rainbow Dash opened her eyes in slow motion, feeling numb to the loud hoof-claps the mourners bestowed upon her. As she expected, the casket was no longer anywhere in sight, and even when she looked up, she saw not even the slightest trace of it in the atmosphere above.

It was over. Wherever her father was now, it was a place she could no longer reach...

“Thank you,” the host said as he returned to the podium. “I’m sure he really would have appreciated that.”

Rainbow Dash did not respond as she went to sit herself back down, an additional sting of sorrow piercing her directly in the heart over the fact that she had not witnessed her father’s final departure.

“We pray that somewhere up there, Rainbow Blaze will find the peace he has earned,” said the host. “We wish him a gentle rest now and forevermore. Until we meet again.”

The host gave final bow of respect, which the crowd mimicked simultaneously.

“Thank you all for coming today,” he said as his head raised back up, officially drawing the funeral to a close.

In a flurry of motion, most of the mourners formed another line towards Rainbow Dash to offer a hug or a final word of comfort before taking their leave while Scootaloo slipped away, believing that she had fulfilled whatever obligation had driven her to attend. Rainbow waited as patiently as she could to meet face-to-face with Spitfire again, which only happened after she had bid farewell to Princesses Celestia and Luna.

“You wanted to speak with me?” Spitfire said as she approached her.

Rainbow Dash breathed in deeply.

“I know that I’m not supposed to, but I wanted to ask if you’ll let me wear my Wonderbolt uniform later on when I come back here. There’s something I really have to do for my dad, and I’d like to wear it while I do it. It's kinda important to me.”

Spitfire stared at Rainbow with indubitable skepticism, yet still showed little indication that she was willing to deny her.

“Well, that isn’t something I would normally allow, especially without knowing the details,” she said sternly. “However, for this particular occasion, I will allow it. Just so long as I have your word that you won’t wear it for anything other than this one purpose only.”

“You do,” Rainbow replied with sincerity. “I mean, I won’t.”

Spitfire nodded to exhibit her trust in Rainbow’s words, and the two parted ways after a fond farewell. Rainbow Dash stared up into the sky a final time, briefly wondering whether or not her father had already managed to find her mother...


Exhausted and beyond ready for a break, Rainbow Dash meticulously set down the heavy box she was struggling to hold after forcing it through the doorway of her father’s old bedroom, wiping traces of sweat from her forehead as soon as her hooves were free again.

Following the funeral's closure, she had introduced her friends to Wind Lily, and they had all spent the last several hours assisting her former caretaker with her move after learning that she was unable to afford movers. While it was tedious and tiresome work, it granted Rainbow Dash a surprisingly potent distraction from her grief, as well as from the prospect of seeing her father’s headstone for the very first time when she later returned to the cemetery wearing her Wonderbolt garb.

“I can’t thank you all enough for all your help,” Wind Lily said once the final box had been brought over, and Rainbow had returned to the almost overcrowded living room. “I don’t even want to think about how strenuous it would have been for me to carry all of those boxes over myself, one-by-one.”

“Think nothin’ of it, ma’am,” replied Applejack, bucking the box from her back. “We’re happy to help.”

“I'm not really sure why you’d want to live here,” noted Spike. “I mean, won’t this house bring back a lot of upsetting memories for you?”

“Yes, it probably will,” Lily answered with a nod. “But honestly, I think just about anywhere is better than the place I’ve been living for I don’t even know how many years now. I think I’m well overdue for a change, even if it’s only a marginal one.”

“If you don’t mind me saying, Miss Lily, this home could do with a bit more flourish,” said Rarity, staring with disapproval at the dusty drapes hanging over the kitchen window. “Fortunately, modifying fixer-uppers such as this happens to be included within my area of expertise. Should you wish to employ my services as an interior decorator, I’d be happy to lend them to you, free of charge.”

Wind Lily chuckled. “Why, thank you, umm...Rarity, was it? I’ll keep that in mind.”

Pinkie Pie suddenly inhaled a deep gasp, which instantly granted her all of the attention in the room.

“Wait, wait, wait! So you were Rainbow Dash’s caretaker, right?! That must mean that you have a ton of really embarrassing stories of Rainbow Dash when she was a foal that she would never want any of us to hear, and since we’ve never heard any of these embarrassing stories before since Rainbow Dash would never tell them to us herself because she’d never want us to hear them, we could hear some of these stories from you right now, right?....now?!”

Wind Lily blinked at Pinkie’s rapid manner of speech.

“Well...I suppose so. That is…”

Wind Lily looked to Rainbow Dash, who responded only with a casual shrug, still not harboring enough care for her reputation to be concerned about any potentially damaging stories Wind Lily may have had on her.

“Alright, well, I do have one that’s kinda funny,” Wind Lily said with a chuckle. “One day, I was trying to get Rainbow Dash to eat mashed carrots, only to end up learning the hard way that mashed carrots was probably her least favorite food in the world. As soon as I fed her a spoonful—”

Uninterested in the story, Rainbow Dash stepped outside the house and took a seat by the front door, but she barely had any time to think to herself before Applejack also stepped outside and took a seat beside her.

“Are you ready yet?” she asked.

Rainbow shook her head. “It’d really be nice if I knew for sure that he could hear me. I mean, he used to be so convinced that mom could hear him, but I never believed it. And besides, it’s not like he’s actually resting there...”

“Don’t let that distract you,” encouraged Applejack. “If you just start talkin’, you’ll feel him there with you. It’s not an easy feelin' to describe, but you’ll know it when you feel it.”

Rainbow said nothing, her mind occupied with the image of her parents reunited in the atmosphere, sharing a heartfelt reunion that she would have absolutely loved to join...

“You have a lot to say to him, don’t you?” asked Applejack.

“Yeah,” Rainbow said with a nod. “A lot.”

“Well, he’s waitin’ on you right now,” said Applejack. “And forgive me for bein’ blunt, but I don’t see any reason why you should keep him waitin’ any longer.”

Rainbow sighed. “I guess you’re right...”

Applejack nodded with approval. “This is all part of movin’ forward, Rainbow. It’s part of acceptin’ that even though he may not be here anymore, he still hasn’t left you behind. You only got some practice the other day, but this here is the real thing. You can do it.”

Rainbow Dash nodded with insincere agreement before standing up again and heading home to retrieve her Wonderbolt uniform, finally ready to do what she had been waiting to do for more than five years...


It was nearly evening by the time Rainbow Dash returned to the eastern plot, covered from head to hoof in her Wonderbolt garb. With the Birds of Passion removed from her mane, a gentle late afternoon breeze permitted it to flow without interruption. As before, the uniform felt like sheer bliss covering her skin and was almost enough to put her in a relatively happy mood, or at least a somewhat decent one.

Locking in on the east quadrant plot, Rainbow Dash lowered herself to the cloud-based ground and began a slow tread towards the location of her mother’s headstone. When she reached it, she was not surprised to see that it had since been replaced by a larger and wider headstone, with her father’s name inscribed next to her mother's. She recalled being asked whether she wanted their stones to be separate or shared, only to lethargically brush the question off. She was grateful that they were sharing a headstone, as she was almost certain that was what both of them would have wanted.

Rainbow was admittedly grateful that the entire plot was empty, not because she would have been embarrassed to be seen speaking to a stone, but because she would preferred to have privacy for her talk with her father. She cleared her throat as she focused on her father's side of the stone, preparing to speak with it just as she had watched him do for so many years while she simply stared on, only saying a single word or two whenever prompted.

“Well, here I am,” she said somewhat loudly. “Let’s just pretend for a minute that I’m standing on your front doorstep, and you’ve just opened the door. I'm trying to imagine what your face would look like. I’ll bet you didn't expect to see me wearing this, did you?”

Rainbow was almost surprised to find herself grinning, but it soon faded as she was still unable to feel anything but her mane being brushed by the wind, with no indication that her father could hear a word she was saying.

“I read your letter, just so you know,” she continued with a strain of bitterness present in her voice . “I don’t know how you thought you could just throw all of that on me to live with for the rest of my life. I really wish you had told me a long time ago that you had once tried to become a Wonderbolt. And you’re right, just because you envied me doesn’t mean you should have tried so hard to knock me down at every turn.”

Rainbow Dash waited before speaking again, still hoping to feel something in the air or the wind that would have told her that her father was listening to her. But the lonely wind offered her nothing more than silence and emptiness, and Rainbow Dash began to feel that this was indeed the meaningless effort she had always perceived it to be. With a sigh, she eventually resumed.

“For what it’s worth, I regret never coming back, but I certainly don’t regret leaving. I just...needed to find my own way, and I couldn’t do that with you trying to hold me back. But that was your choice to make, and you can’t be mad at me because I decided to make my own, even if it was wrong of me to never come back and visit you....”

Another pause granted her nothing but frustration, and she pursed her lips bitterly. Applejack was wrong. She had to be. This was simply a waste of time...

“I can’t even believe I’m doing this right now,” she said. “I don’t feel any different than I did when you would bring me here as a filly. You’re not really here. This is just a stone in a cloud. The real you is gone. Just like mom…”

Rainbow Dash's disappointment weighed her wings and legs down, and it was the only thing keeping her standing in place. Yet before it could wear off, a powerful and utterly indescribable sensation swept over her, which almost immediately morphed into the familiar presence of her father, stronger than she had ever felt it before. Her eyes widened with disbelief as her every last doubt faded at once. Finally, she was more than positive that her father was there with her, hearing each and every word that flung from her lips. She remained in momentary silence as she took the time to savor the feeling, which offered her a significantly greater bliss than gulping down cider the previous night.

“Thank you, dad,” she whispered, tears collecting within her goggles. “Thank you for being here with me...”

The euphoria of the moment was such a contrast to the relentless sorrow and grief that had plagued her all week that it was almost as though she had stepped forward into a brand new life. For the very first time, her life beyond today no longer seemed like a spiral into an endless black hole. It seemed instead like a new beginning—an opportunity to move past this unbelievably tumultuous week and into a brand new one, where she would have the opportunity to move past her pain.

Rainbow Dash spent nearly an hour continuing to speak with her father, catching him up on her life for the last five years, as well as everything she had undergone leading up to the funeral. All the while, her father refused to leave her side, and the mental image of him holding her beneath his foreleg was the only fixation of her thoughts. It was no longer any wonder to her why her father insisted on talking to her mother's stone. She hated that she had wasted so many years not doing the same...

“I’m going to make you and mom proud of me,” Rainbow Dash insisted. “One of these days, I’ll come back with the news that I’m now a full-fledged Wonderbolt. And sometime after that, I'll come back and tell you that I've been promoted to Captain of the Wonderbolts. I'm going to live the prosperous life you want for me. I promise you.”

With a her heart soaring with the warmth of her, Rainbow placed her hoof on the stone and stared at it as intensely as though she were staring directly into her father's eyes.

“I love you, too, dad. And I forgive you.”

Smiling with satisfaction, Rainbow Dash turned to depart, and the over-encompassing feeling of her father standing beside her soon faded away.

Now all that was next was moving forward...

Epilogue -- Moving Forward

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Rainbow Dash was almost entirely out of breath as she landed outside the small office building of Dr. Hoofs J. Eyes’n’Neck just in time for her one o’clock appointment. Her face carried a satisfactory grin, having reached the office in a new record time—only twenty-seven seconds from her home, an improvement over her previous time of thirty-one seconds. Ever since receiving her Wonderbolt uniform, Rainbow now felt closer and more connected to them than ever before, and had since been challenging herself to get from place to place as quickly as she possibly could.

She took a minute to catch her breath before stepping through the office door where the spectacled, finely-dressed, and gray-bearded unicorn she had come to see was waiting for her.

“Good afternoon, Rainbow Dash,” said Dr. Hoofs. “Right on time again.”

“Afternoon, doc,” Rainbow replied, taking a seat on the red, polyester couch which was situated against the wall just across from him. “I just got here in twenty-seven seconds flat!”

Dr. Hoofs raised his eyebrows, though he did not appear particularly impressed. “Is that so?”

Rainbow grinned and nodded. “I’m still trying to be the first Reserve who advances to become a full-fledged Wonderbolt. Since openings are few and far between, I have to ensure that I get in early. Otherwise, I could be waiting for years.”

“I see,” said Dr. Hoofs. “Well, I wish you luck on that.”


“Anyway, as before, I feel the need to stress to you that you do not need to continue having sessions with me,” noted Dr. Hoofs. “I have already determined that you’re mentally well enough to no longer require them.”

“I know,” Rainbow replied with an acknowledging nod. “But I want to be here. I didn’t expect it, but I really enjoy these sessions. I think you really know what you’re talking about.”

Dr. Hoofs chuckled and magically levitated a clipboard and pen from off his desk, releasing the clipboard into his forehoof while keeping the pen hovering beside him. “Well, I should certainly hope so. This is what I’ve dedicated my life to, after all.”

“Well, I’m no expert, but I really think you made the right life choice,” said Rainbow Dash.

“So do I,” Hoofs replied with a nod. “Anyway, it’s now been over four weeks since your father’s death. How have things been going for you since the last time we spoke?”

“I’ve been getting along alright,” Rainbow answered. “I’m still not quite there yet, but I’m really starting to enjoy life again. And with the Equestria Games just two weeks away, I have something big to look forward to.”

“And you’ll still be competing in the Games, correct?” asked Dr. Hoofs.

“Yup,” Rainbow answered proudly. “I’m still going to be in the relay race, flying for Ponyville.”

“Well, I certainly hope you do well,” said Dr. Hoofs. “Are you feeling nervous about it at all?”

“Just a little, but it’s only because I’ll be up against the Wonderbolts,” answered Rainbow. “If I’m racing against Spitfire, I really can’t say for sure if I’ll win the gold or not.”

“I see,” Dr. Hoofs noted. “If I recall correctly, the last time we talked about it, you were worried that you would feel too much anxiety to perform because your parents would not be there to see you. Do you still feel that way?”

Rainbow Dash shifted her mouth and went silent for nearly half a minute, and the confident look on her face and tone of her voice slipped away.

“I don’t know. I’m not as worried about it as I was last time, but this is definitely one of those moments I wish they could be alive for. But I’m only going to be competing in one event. I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to keep myself together.”

Dr. Hoofs gave her a nod, and then moved his levitated pen to the clipboard to jot something down.

“It’s funny,” Rainbow continued, causing him to look back up. “If my dad were still alive and nothing had changed between us, it wouldn’t bother me at all if he wasn’t there to watch me perform at the Games. How does him being gone change that so much?”

“The short answer is because now you know that there won’t be another chance,” replied Dr. Hoofs. “Perhaps there could have been another Equestria Games sometime in the future after your relationship had been repaired, but unfortunately, that’s no longer the case. You did not expect that, and truthfully, only few of us ever really do.”

Rainbow Dash nodded in understanding. “Yeah…”

“I’m sorry,” said Dr. Hoofs. “I interpreted that question as though you were looking for a genuine answer, but perhaps that wasn’t the case...”

“I did want an answer,” replied Rainbow, shaking her head.

Dr. Hoofs wrote on his clipboard again, and Rainbow Dash waited in silence for him to finish.

“Do you feel any responsibility for your parents’ deaths at this moment?” Dr. Hoofs asked after his pen ceased contact with the sheet on the clipboard.

Rainbow exhaled a sigh. Throughout their previous sessions, this question was the only one that had remained consistent, and she had thus been expecting it.

“Well, the doctors tell me that they still don’t know what caused my dad’s infection,” she answered. “I don’t think I’m going to feel sure until I have that answer.”

“I can understand you wanting an explanation for his death,” Dr. Hoofs replied, magically straightening his glasses. “But the unfortunate truth is that sometimes, things like that simply happen without much reason. Sometimes our bodies just stop functioning properly and become unable to fight off certain infections. And after all, our bodies are only designed to last so long.”

“Yeah, I know,” Rainbow said with a reluctant nod. “You told me that last time.”

“I only tell you again because it’s possible that you may never truly find out what caused his infection,” said Dr. Hoofs. “It really could have been any number of things, but as far as my own medical knowledge goes, there’s no infection in existence that can be caused simply by being apart from a relative for years, or anything remotely similar. As I told you before, you’ll have to learn to accept that whatever it was, it had nothing to do with you.”

Tears penetrated the surface of Rainbow’s eyes as she struggled to imagine what must have been going through her father’s head as he received the news that his life was at risk, as well as when he was writing his final letter, which he had known would likely be the last thing he would ever do. Since the funeral, Rainbow Dash had visited her parents’ shared headstone again and vowed to her father that she would find out exactly what it was that claimed his life.

“What about going back in time?” asked Dr. Hoofs as Rainbow wiped her eyes before the tears fell. “Do you ever still feel like you’d want to do that?”

“If I did, it’d only be to meet my mom,” she answered. “I wouldn’t try to save her life, but I would still love to have the chance to meet her.”

“How do you envision that meeting would go?” asked Hoofs after his levitated pen had swiveled upon the clipboard again. “Say you’ve gone back in time and you’re given one minute to talk with her. What would you say, and how do you think she would reply?”

Rainbow Dash thought deeply before answering.

“Well, I would hug her before I would say anything,” Rainbow answered, feeling slightly embarrassed. “More than anything else, I want to remember the feel of her touch.”

“I imagine she’d be more than a little confused if you did that,” noted Dr. Hoofs. “If you didn’t say anything to let her know who you were, how do you think she’d respond to you?”

“I actually think she’d know exactly who I am,” Rainbow answered confidently. “I mean, yeah, she’d probably be really confused as to why I’m suddenly fully grown, but I don’t think it would really matter. She would still know her daughter.”

Hoofs nodded his head in understanding. “Alright, then, what do you imagine she would say?”

Rainbow Dash rubbed her chin, now feeling as embarrassed as though she had been asked to read her diary out loud. Though she appreciated his help, there were times when she felt that Dr. Hoofs’ questions seemed more than a bit too personal—the things he occasionally asked her to share were not things she would easily share with her own friends.

“Well, I’m sure I’d be crying as I hugged her, so…I guess she’d probably say something to comfort me,” she answered silently.

Dr. Hoofs ran his pen across the clipboard again, and Rainbow Dash nearly protested against his doing so.

“So would you just hug her the entire time, or would you also try speaking to her?” he asked.

“I would tell her how much I love her,” Rainbow said, closing her eyes as she tried to imagine the moment. “Other than that, I don’t really know what I’d say. I would just want to feel her touch again.”

Dr. Hoofs did not reply for a moment, nor did he write her response down on the clipboard. Before long, Rainbow Dash opened her eyes, which were again glazed over with tears that she did not permit to fall.

“What about your father?” Dr. Hoofs asked. “You said you would only go back to meet your mother, but would you go back to see your father again?”

“Yeah, but my mom would come first,” she said with a nod. “And if I only had one chance to go back, I would choose to see her.”

“Okay, then,” Hoofs noted. “But speaking hypothetically, let’s say your father was present when you went back to meet your mom. How do you imagine he would react to seeing you?”

“He’d probably be a lot more confused than my mom,” Rainbow said. “He was always skeptical about magic, so it would probably take him a long time to accept that time travel is possible, while my mom would have been a lot more open to belief.”

“Do you also believe that he would know who you were?” asked Dr. Hoofs.

“Yeah, I think so,” answered Rainbow. “But as I said, it probably wouldn’t click as quickly as it would for my mom.”

“So what do you think you would you say to him?” asked Hoofs. “Would you tell him about his fate?”

“No,” Rainbow replied guiltily, shaking her head. “But I would probably tell him that I would become a Wonderbolt someday, and that he shouldn’t envy me for it.”

Dr. Hoofs wrote on the clipboard again, and like before, Rainbow Dash felt uncomfortable about it. Though Dr. Hoofs had insisted that there was a confidentiality pact between them, Rainbow could not help but feel that her thoughts became decidedly less private whenever he wrote them down.

“So, just to clarify, if given the chance to go back in time, you would not try to warn your parents about the nature of their deaths?” Dr.Hoofs asked.

Rainbow Dash shook her head, feeling starkly irritated by the question.

“No, I already decided that it wouldn’t be worth it,” she answered. “I have to learn to move forward. Changing the past is too risky.”

“Nopony alive can be saved from death,” Dr. Hoofs replied with a nod. “There’s no spell to reverse it or to stop it from coming, nor is there any field of scientific study that has ever come close to finding a way to stop it, or to ‘cure’ it. We simply have to accept that we’re all living on limited time.”

Rainbow Dash bobbed her head slowly, struggling to hide her irritation. “I know. Again, I’ve heard that before”

“Well, I have to say, Rainbow Dash, you do seem much better than you did the last time we spoke,” noted Dr. Hoofs. “It really seems like you’re well into the process of moving forward.”

“Um, how long does it usually take?” Rainbow asked, suddenly somber. “To move forward, I mean?”

“There’s no easy way to answer that,” said Hoofs as he magically lifted his glasses from his face and simultaneously levitated a cloth from his pocket to clean them. “As a matter of fact, there’s no easy way to define what ‘moving on’ even means. The way I define it is that you resume functioning in life without being overwhelmed by the pain of a loved one’s passing. I think that’s what you should focus on striving for. Take it one day at a time and try not to let it occupy your thoughts. As to how long it takes, I can’t say. In general, it normally depends on how close you were to the one you lost, and how much regret you still have.”

“Well, I still have plenty of regret…” Rainbow said.

“So I understand,” noted Dr. Hoofs. “Has that gotten any better lately….or perhaps worse?”

Rainbow delayed her response for a few moments, and a sudden spasm of uncertainty flashed through her crimson eyes.

“Not everypony can move on though, can they?” she asked, ignoring his question. “Like my dad almost didn’t move on after my mom died…”

“Unfortunately, no,” said Dr. Hoofs, somberly shaking his head. “It is indeed true that not everypony can find that strength. For some, the pain often seems too great. And indeed, sometimes ponies do the only thing they think they can do to rid themselves of their pain. But I’m certain you’re not one of those ponies, Rainbow Dash, are you?”

Rainbow shook her head slowly. “I guess not...”

Dr. Hoofs chuckled humorlessly to himself. “Oh, come on, you could stand to give yourself just a bit more credit than that, can’t you?”

She returned a casual shrug, and Dr. Hoofs quickly came to the conclusion that there was something even deeper on her mind.

“Well, in that case, I think we’ve put it off long enough,” he said suddenly. “How are things with Scootaloo? Have you made any progress with restoring your relationship with her?”

Rainbow’s ears lowered at the question, another one she had known was inevitable. They had spent most of their last session speaking about her anxiety over never being able to rekindle her relationship with Scootaloo again.

“Nothing’s changed,” she answered somberly.

Dr. Hoofs frowned. “I’m sorry to hear that.”

Rainbow Dash appeared to want to say something more, but only solemn sighs emerged from her open mouth.

“So you are you saying that nothing new has happened at all since our last discussion?” Dr. Hoofs asked once it became clear that she was not going to speak again. “You haven’t seen her or spoken to her since?”

“I haven’t spoken to her,” Rainbow said, once again feeling as though Dr. Hoofs was prying into her personal life as though he was armed with an emotional crowbar. “But I did see her the other day.”

“I see,” noted Hoofs, marking on the clipboard again. “So did you see each other face-to-face? Did anything happen when you saw her?”

“No, not face-to-face,” Rainbow answered. “I saw her, but she didn’t see me. I was out flying near the schoolhouse and I just happened to see her outside, playing with her two friends. She really seems to be doing fine.”

“Is that so?” asked Hoofs. “How does that make you feel?”

“Like I told you last time, the more I think about it, the more I feel that she was right,” Rainbow said with a sigh. “I really did once think that no matter what, she would always have my back and never stay angry at me. I really do think that this was something I needed to learn.”

“Do you still feel that you’ve lost her?” asked Dr. Hoofs, his voice not carrying quite as much compassion as such a question would warrant. “Do you think she still wants you in her life?”

Rainbow Dash said nothing for a long while as the question flowed through her ears and caused her entire body to go numb.

“I don’t know...” she answered silently.

Dr. Hoofs’ missing compassion finally spread across his face, breaking away abruptly from the serious demeanor he had maintained since they had begun speaking.

“I’m truly sorry, Rainbow Dash.”

His expression made Rainbow uncomfortable, and she quickly shifted her eyes to the large window on her left where the partly cloudy sky was easily in view, and the clouds strangely appeared to take on the form of Scootaloo’s face.

“I keep on wondering if she wants me to do something,” Rainbow said once she was willing to speak again. “Like, I keep wondering that maybe she’s just testing me. Maybe she really wants me to fight for our relationship, instead of just standing by, waiting for her to make the choice. She told me that she just needed some time to sort it out herself, but I still hate to think that there’s nothing I can really do but wait for her. I mean, for all I know, it’s going to take months.”

“Well, I know this is yet another thing that you’ve heard from me before, but I really don’t think she’s going to ignore you forever,” said Hoofs. “Regardless of what she chooses, I imagine she’s going to give you an answer at some point.”

Rainbow Dash shook her head sorrowfully. “Maybe not. Maybe she’s already made her choice and I’m just expected to understand that she doesn’t want anything to do with me anymore. Maybe it’s just easier for her this way.”

“Now, I certainly doubt that,” Dr. Hoofs replied flatly. “I may not know Scootaloo personally, but I’ve spoken with enough estranged friends and family members to know that this approach isn’t easier. I would wager that she’s likely thinking about you almost every single day, and she most likely understands that she’ll have to address this sooner or later.”

Rainbow shrugged nonchalantly at the little comfort his words offered her.

“Well, it worked well enough for me, didn’t it? I was completely serious about not seeing my dad again until I was a Wonderbolt.”

“That may be so,” Dr. Hoofs replied with a nod. “But you still had a goal, did you not? You knew exactly what would need to happen before you were going to see your father again, correct? It was never your intention to keep him out of your life forever because you were certain that becoming a Wonderbolt was all but inevitable for you.”

“Well, yeah,” Rainbow answered, “but it’s not like I was thinking about him every other day either. In fact, it really didn’t take too long for me to put him out of my mind. I was glad that I didn’t have to listen to him crushing my dreams anymore.”

“I would suppose it also helped that you moved away from Cloudsdale,” said Dr. Hoofs. “You weren’t bothered by the notion that you could just happen pass him by on a street corner on any given day. That’s a sort of luxury that Scootaloo doesn’t have, and that’s why you’re going to remain on her mind until she’s settled her issues with you in one way or another.”

Rainbow Dash paused for a moment before speaking again, no longer interested in continuing the conversation until it was offering her actual advice.

“What do you think I should do?” she asked as she pierced Dr. Hoofs with a look of genuine desperation, convincing him that the fragile nature of her relationship with Scootaloo likely hinged upon his answer.

Dr. Hoofs magically lifted the clipboard from his hoof and set it back down on his desk, along with the pen. He then looked back at Rainbow Dash as thoroughly as if he could see through her, and after a few moments, he finally spoke again.

“As I told you, I haven’t spoken with her,” he replied. “I couldn’t tell you for sure what she does or doesn’t want, because I honestly don’t know. I’m simply basing my judgment of this situation purely on everything you’ve told me about her. And with that thought in mind, I would imagine that she would need some sort of proof that this has affected you. I cannot help but feel that if she hasn’t forgiven you on her own by now, she’s likely going to need an extra push to do so.”

Rainbow Dash shifted her mouth. “What kind of proof do you think I need?”

“Well, that’s a bit trickier to answer,” noted Dr. Hoofs. “But I would think that above all, she would want to see proof that the relationship you share still means a lot to you. You said it yourself. It’s entirely possible that what she truly wants you to do is fight for your relationship. Show her that you’re determined to see it thrive again.”

Rainbow nodded in understanding, even though she felt that it seemed almost too simple a solution.

“So you’re saying that I should try talking with her again?”

“I think you’d be taking a risk either way,” said Dr. Hoofs. “Don’t misunderstand. I’m not going to offer you any guarantee that this will work. In fact, it could honestly backfire. I’m just telling you that based on what I know about Scootaloo, I feel that the course of action I’ve suggested is probably the best one. And at the very least, I think it would be worth speaking with her again just to ask whether or not she’s come to a decision yet. Even if she’s chosen not to forgive you, you deserve to be told about it directly.”

Silence permeated through the room again as Rainbow Dash pondered his advice, feeling a bit more uncertain about his proposed solution than she would have liked.

“I….I’ll have to think about it,” she said.

“Of course,” said Dr. Hoofs. “I would not expect otherwise.”

Their session ended a short time later as Rainbow Dash became so focused on the thought of speaking with Scootaloo again that she lost all motivation to answer any more of his questions. With some good-natured parting words and a hoofshake, Rainbow left Dr. Hoofs’ office, suddenly interested in finding out what the rest of the day would have in store for her.


Peaceful comfort from the sun engulfed Rainbow Dash as she trotted away from the small office building. A sunny afternoon such as this almost always made her want to find the nearest fluffy cloud and lie down upon it for an afternoon nap as the sunlight caressed her to sleep. Although she had no intention of napping at the moment, she could not help but smile at the realization that it was something she could do if she actually wanted to. It was all the more evidence that her life had almost entirely returned to a state of normalcy.

Though her relationship with Scootaloo still remained in question, Rainbow could not deny how much the status quo of her life had since corrected itself, which was something she had not expected would happen so soon after her father’s funeral. Nearly every facet of her life had miraculously managed to return to the way it used to be. She had since resumed her job as the head of Ponyville’s Weather Team, she was eating regularly each day since her appetite had returned, and thankfully, she was once again sleeping all the way through the night, without any troubling thoughts preventing her from getting enough rest.

However, new changes in her life still challenged the state of normalcy as they gradually settled into it. The Wonderbolts tended to keep her busy with hour-long exercises and drills up to three times a week. The box of her mother’s pictures remained within the closet, and almost every day, she debated whether or not she was finally ready to look at them, fearing that doing so would only cause the hole of her mother’s absence to sink even deeper. Her mother’s flower book sat on her bedside table, and she slowly cycled through one page a night, reading the written descriptions next to each flower in the book which gave her only the tiniest insights into the nature of her mother’s fascination with nature and life itself. And almost every other day, Rainbow dropped by Fluttershy’s cottage for lunch, their relationship having strengthened since the funeral.

With her session finished, and the hour of two o’clock approaching quickly, Fluttershy’s cottage became Rainbow’s next destination. Rather than screeching through the sky in an attempt to set another record, she decided to take her time in arriving, allowing the anticipation of digging her teeth into the freshly-baked scones Fluttershy had told her she would be making build up steadily. By the time she arrived at Fluttershy’s doorstep, her stomach was emanating a silent, yet firm rumble, and she pushed her way inside, expecting that the sweet scent of baked goods permeating the air would rise up to meet her nose.

“Hi, Rainbow Dash,” Fluttershy greeted while in the process of inserting her forehooves into a pair of hoof-mits.

“Hey, Fluttershy,” Rainbow replied as the enticing smell of the scones drew her directly into the kitchen.

Angel was standing cross-armed on the counter at the fact that his feeding bowl remained empty after a mere five minutes past his own scheduled lunch time. As Fluttershy carefully removed the hot scones from the oven, he jumped to her back and stamped his foot repeatedly, as though he believed that the only reason he had yet to be fed was because he was simply invisible to her.

“Just a few more minutes, Angel,” Fluttershy said apologetically.

Angel shook his head angrily in response.

“Here, I’ve got him,” Rainbow said with a chuckle.

She opened up the refrigerator and removed Angel’s usual lunch assortment of lettuce, carrot slices, cucumbers, and tomato slices. With the impatient bunny scrutinizing her intensely, she mixed the medley of vegetables into his bowl, then placed it in his usual feeding spot on the floor. Angel rushed over to it and examined its contents thoroughly, only to soon turn away and stubbornly cross his arms again.

“What?” Rainbow said, irritated by Angel’s disapproval.

“Umm, you forgot the cherry,” Fluttershy silently reminded.

“Oh, right,” Rainbow replied, rolling her eyes. She then went back to the refrigerator, pulled a cherry from out of a jar and squarely positioned it at the centermost point of the bowl.

Angel gave Rainbow a somewhat-appreciative nod, then immediately dug right into his lunch, savagely tearing through the vegetables as though he feared that the bowl would be taken away from him if he did not scarf everything down as quickly as he could.

Rainbow Dash watched him with a cocked eyebrow. “Um, aren’t you chowing down a little too—?”

Fluttershy nudged her in the side, urging her not to say any more. Angel hated it when he was told that he was eating too fast.

“Uh, nevermind,” Rainbow said, rolling her eyes at the hungry bunny who was not paying her any mind anyway.

“Lunch is ready,” said Fluttershy, motioning over to the kitchen table.

Rainbow Dash took a seat as Fluttershy placed the dozen of scones on a tray alongside a pair of serving cups full of cream and strawberry jam. She then carefully set the tray down on the center of the table, between their two empty plates. Rainbow’s stomach lurched at the sight of the scones, and she was almost left with the temptation to dig through them almost as savagely as Angel was with his own lunch.

“So, anything new?” Fluttershy asked as she placed a few scones on her plate.

“Had another session today,” answered Rainbow, doing the same.

“I can’t believe you’re still having them,” Fluttershy replied. “When Dr. Horse suggested that you have therapy, I told him that it was something you wouldn’t want at all.”

“Well, yeah, I didn’t want it at first,” said Rainbow, “but I think I really should have given it more of a chance. He’s helped me more than I ever thought he would, though at times he can be a bit...intrusive.”

“Well, as long as you think he’s helping you, I hope you have as many sessions as you need,” said Fluttershy. She waited to swallow a bite before speaking again. “So, umm, have you looked at any of your mother’s pictures yet?”

Rainbow twisted her mouth with discomfort. “It’s just too soon right now.”

“I understand,” replied Fluttershy with a slow nod. “Sorry. I really should stop asking that.”

“I’m still looking through her flower book every night, though,” said Rainbow Dash. “I can’t believe she loved those things so much. The way she writes about them, you’d think they were the most valuable treasures in all of Equestria.”

“Maybe they were to her,” said Fluttershy. “Maybe she just connected with them the most, like I did with animals when I first came to the ground.”

Rainbow Dash shrugged. “I guess.”

They fell momentarily silent as they swallowed one scone while moving onto the next, swiping it over with both the cream and jam. Having finished his lunch, Angel fled from the kitchen and jumped up on Fluttershy’s couch to settle himself in for a nap.

“So, the Equestria Games are just two weeks away,” Rainbow acknowledged. “I’m sure you know what that means, right?”

“That in only two weeks, I’ll be performing in front of a crowd of thousands upon thousands of ponies who will be watching my each and every move, including a number of fans from Ponyville who will be expecting us to bring home gold medals?” Fluttershy said, her rapid speech overflowing with nervousness. “Yes, I’m aware of that….”

Rainbow blinked.

“Yeah, well, I...wanted to ask if you still felt comfortable about performing,” she said. “If you’re having second thoughts, I really need to know about it so we can make arrangements for a replacement. Not to put pressure on you, but our team is really counting on you to pull through.”

Rainbow’s words did appear not make Fluttershy any less nervous.

“I’m sure I can do it,” she said with a self-comforting nod. “My time in the Pony Tones has really helped with my anxiety about performing. All I need to do is focus on the race and not think about all of those…..eyes….staring at me.”

She shook her head quickly, as though trying to erase the nervous thoughts from her mind, and her face was refreshed with a look of confidence.

“Anyway, I’m not going to let you or Ponyville down,” she said firmly.

Rainbow Dash nodded once, expressing her satisfaction by her response.

“How about you?” asked Fluttershy.


“Are you nervous at all?” Fluttershy asked. “I mean—”

“Hah! I don’t even know what that word means!” Rainbow Dash interrupted with an arrogant boast.

“Even knowing that Scootaloo will be there?” Fluttershy asked, and the question immediately erased the smug grin from Rainbow’s face. “That is, unless she decides to patch things up between the two of you sometime before the Games.”

Rainbow Dash sighed, stuffing another scone into her mouth to delay a response, but Fluttershy continued staring at her with the sort of curiosity which made it apparent that she was not about to retract the question or even say anything else until it was answered.

“I’m not really sure,” she replied after swallowing. “I talked to the doc about it today, and he thinks that it might be better if I just took a chance and spoke with her again. He thinks that she wants to see actual proof that I’ve changed.”

“Oh, goodness,” said Fluttershy, her eyes widening. “What do you think about that? Last time we talked about it, you said that you were just going to give her the time she needs.”

“I actually think he might be right,” answered Rainbow Dash. “After all, my dad decided not to speak with me again until I was ready, and all that happened was that I missed my chance to ever see him again. I can’t help but feel like giving her time is the last thing I need to do at this point.”

Fluttershy briefly looked down at her plate in thought. “Well, it doesn’t exactly sound like the ‘wrong’ answer, I guess. It has more potential to make things better than worse.”

“Either way, I’m just tired of the tension between us,” Rainbow said with a sigh. “I’m tired of waking up every morning and hoping that we don’t happen to cross each others’ paths. I’m tired of wondering whether or not the day will come when she finally decides to forgive me.”

“Well, I really hope it goes well,” Fluttershy said comfortingly.

“I’m not sure if it will,” replied Rainbow Dash, rejecting the comfort. “I mean, if my dad had decided to speak with me before I was ready to see him, I’m not sure I would have been that open to forgiving him.”

“Don’t think like that,” said Fluttershy. “If your dad made an effort to show his remorse, you wouldn’t have just turned him away. And Scootaloo won’t just turn you away either.”

Rainbow Dash forced a half-hearted grin, then they both turned their attention towards the scones until there was nothing left on the tray but the two now-empty serving cups.

“Thanks for lunch,” Rainbow said as Fluttershy collected their plates up and carried the tray over to the kitchen sink.

“Of course, anytime,” Fluttershy replied contentedly. “So….what are you going to do now?”

Rainbow’s mouth shifted from side to side in uncertainty. “I guess I’m just going to go take the plunge. There’s only one way to find out whether it’ll work or not...”

“Well, I’ll be rooting for you,” Fluttershy replied.

Rainbow Dash rose from her seat and promptly stretched her limbs, now even more ready for a nap than she had been before. But a surge of determination promptly spread through her joints and ensured that she would be incapable of receiving any rest before she and Scootaloo were standing face-to-face again for the first time since the funeral.

Fluttershy followed her back to the front door, and as they passed by the still-asleep Angel on the couch, Rainbow Dash turned to face her closest friend for a final time before heading out of the safety of the cottage.

“However this goes, I just want to tell you how much I appreciate everything you’ve done for me these past few weeks,” she said tenderly. “I really hope that one day I’ll get a chance to be there for you the way you have for me.”

Fluttershy smiled warmly. “As I told you once before, I owe a lot to you, more than I could ever repay. And nothing has changed since then.”

They shared a lengthy hug, within which contained the sisterly affection of more than ten years of a bond as close as family, unbroken by time. As they slowly released each other from the embrace, Rainbow Dash finally felt ready to see Scootaloo again. She stepped out of Fluttershy’s home and simultaneously entered a state of limbo, upon one exit was the void of nothingness she had escaped from weeks ago, and upon the other was the life she had led up until the Saturday four weeks ago, when she was back in that field, innocently playing a game of catch with her once-surrogate younger sister…


The minutes gradually ticked down to the hour of three o’clock, and Rainbow Dash hovered above the Ponyville School House as she awaited the ring of the school bell and the subsequent release of the fillies and colts inside, some of which were struggling to stay awake in their seats, while others still hung onto Miss Cheerliee’s every word.

Despite feeling confident as she departed Fluttershy’s home, the reality of speaking with Scootaloo again had caused Rainbow’s nerves to become overrun with doubt, and she found herself silently debating whether or not this was truly a good idea after all. She wondered how much the outcome of the meeting would affect her life’s return to normalcy. After spending so much time in a depression that she never thought she would find her way out of, the last thing she wanted was to be thrust back into its encompassing clutches….

Before long, the bell sounded off with all the startling force of a bucket of icy water being spilled over Rainbow’s sleeping face, and just as the fillies and colts spilled out of the schoolhouse, she quickly took cover on a nearby cloud, now more full of doubt than before. She peered over the cloud’s edge to watch the last of the students make their exit, each of them excited to have the rest of the afternoon to enjoy. After a moment, she finally saw the three Cutie Mark Crusaders stepping out of the schoolhouse together, chatting amongst themselves as they joined the rest of their peers in the outside rush. Rainbow Dash’s heart skipped at the sight of Scootaloo. Like before, the young pegasus filly appeared to be perfectly content, with no apparent signs that she had been struggling internally with a difficult choice—no apparent signs that she truly missed having her older surrogate sister in her life....

Rainbow’s doubt almost immediately eroded away while fear instantly rose up to replace it. Suddenly, there was no longer any question as to what she was going to do. If Scootaloo had become used to her absence, it likely meant that the window to repair their relationship was closing fast, if it had not closed already. The only option available to her was to pry it back open, even if by force...

Utilizing her unique talent of enhanced focus from above, Rainbow Dash watched the Crusaders, hoping that they would eventually disperse and go their separate ways. But the longer they walked, the more it became apparent that they were headed in the direction of Sweet Apple Acres, which meant that they were on route towards their clubhouse. Rainbow groaned silently, knowing that any Crusader activities they had planned would likely last for hours, and they were hours that she was unwilling to wait.

For nearly ten minutes, she followed them while still using the cloud for cover, deciding not to make her approach until their lengthy conversation had ended. They were nearly a quarter of the way to their clubhouse before she could no longer see any of their lips moving, and Rainbow Dash seized the moment to break away from the cloud and zip down just in front of them, causing all three fillies to stagger wildly at her unexpected appearance.

“Hey, guys,” Rainbow said with a confident smile.

“Uh, hi, Rainbow Dash,” Sweetie Belle replied.

Scootaloo looked almost terrified, as though convinced that Rainbow’s appearance was some sort of ghostly apparition.

“Uh, hey…” she responded apprehensively, the first two words Rainbow had heard her speak in weeks.

“What brings you here?” asked Apple Bloom.

Rainbow Dash fixed her eyes on Scootaloo, who avoided eye contact with her as she stared down at the road beneath her hooves. The fairly cheerful expression she had worn just minutes ago had been sapped from Scootaloo’s face and replaced with a look of disappointment, as though she had just come to the understanding that Rainbow Dash would never allow her to live her life in peace...

“Um, do you have a moment to talk?” Rainbow asked her.

Scootaloo immediately looked at her two friends, both of whom returned encouraging nods as though they had been awaiting this very moment for a long time, far longer than Scootaloo had herself.

“Go on ahead,” urged Sweetie Belle. “We’ll meet up later.”

She and Apple Bloom then continued on their route to the clubhouse, while Scootaloo fought heavily against her desire to keep walking alongside them.

“Okay,” Scootaloo said unenthusiastically. “I guess we can talk, then.”

Her reluctance was easy to pick up on, but Rainbow Dash nevertheless remained intent to continue this through to whatever end it would have. She motioned to a nearby bench and walked over to it, and Scootaloo slowly dragged her hooves to take a seat beside her.

“Um, how’ve you been lately?” Rainbow asked once they were seated.

“I’ve been...fine,” answered Scootaloo.

“Looking forward to the Equestria Games?” Rainbow asked, forcing a smile. “They’re only two weeks away now, you know?”

“I guess so,” Scootaloo replied, her voice carrying no excitement.

“You ‘guess so?’ That’s it?” Rainbow said, almost surprised by her apathy. “I’ll never forget how excited I was to carry Cloudsdale’s flag in just the month before the Games. I thought it was going to be the highlight of my life. And up until then, it probably was.”

“I know that. You’ve told me the story before,” Scootaloo said, her voice laced with irritation. “Sorry, I’m just not really that excited about it right now.”

Rainbow Dash frowned, and neither of them spoke again again for nearly a minute as they watched various ponies pass them by with little more than a glance in their direction. Rainbow bit her lip as she realized that Scootaloo had no intention of mentioning the ambiguity surrounding their relationship, and that if she did not continue the conversation, it was likely only a matter of time before the filly would eventually get up to rejoin her two friends.

“I have to ask. Have you….um...decided anything yet?” questioned Rainbow.

Scootaloo’s face went stiff and her answer was delayed for several seconds, each of which made Rainbow feel more hopeless as they passed.

“No, not yet,” replied Scootaloo, keeping her cold eyes fixed directly ahead of her. “Is that all you wanted to know?”

Her response called forth a surge of frustration to split its way through Rainbow’s already-tense body. She suddenly felt as though she were sitting within a rotting cell while Scootaloo stood outside, dangling a key to freedom just out of her reach, keeping her hope alive while irreparably damaging it at the same time.

“How much more time do you think you need?” she asked, trying not to display her frustration through her voice. “It’s been three weeks already.”

“I’m aware of that,” Scootaloo replied sharply. “I’m just a little...”

Scootaloo rattled her mind for a way to finish the sentence, but ultimately came up with nothing, inadvertently triggering another brief silence. Rainbow Dash knew that the time had finally come for her to take her biggest leap of faith.

“I really don’t think you need any more time, Scoot,” Rainbow said firmly. “I think you’re really just stuck with a problem that you don’t know the solution to. I think that you either don’t want to forgive me because you think I still won’t learn anything if you do, or you no longer want to have anything else to do with me, and you’re not sure how you’ll be able to avoid me forever if we’re still living in the same town and have most of the same friends.”

Scootaloo said nothing as she gazed at Rainbow with a look that was mostly lacking in any emotion, but Rainbow Dash avoided meeting her gaze as she clung to the hope that Scootaloo would continue listening.

“If I’m going to have any chance of getting us back to the way we were, it’s going to start by proving to you that I’ve learned the lesson you wanted me to learn,” she resumed. “Because the thought of not being able to do anything with you anymore, the thought of you telling me that you no longer want me in your life, it terrifies me. And I don’t have any shame in admitting it.”

Scootaloo remained in silence. She took her eyes off Rainbow Dash and opted instead to watch a small group of her classmates playing a game of tag in the grass just a few yards away, giggling with joy as they chased each other down. As innocent a sight as it was, Scootaloo’s jaw clenched as she watched them.

“I was wrong for what I did to you,” Rainbow said, also turning her attention towards the fillies. “You went out of your way to be there for me before I even knew how much I needed you, and I responded by turning you away. You never deserved that, and I’ll probably never forgive myself for it, even if you do manage to forgive me. But I just can’t let that be the end of the sisterhood we’ve shared for such a long time. My dad waited for five long years to see me again, to beg for my forgiveness, and I let him down. Maybe we could have shared a better relationship if I had just cared enough to go back and visit him, or if he had been confident enough to visit me. But it’s too late for that now. I can’t just go back in time and try to patch things up between us either, and believe me when I say that I’ve actually considered the possibility. But what’s done is done, and that’s why I’m here now. I have to try and fix this before it’s too late for us.”

Rainbow Dash paused to wipe at the fledgling tears beginning to overwhelm her eyes. She slowly cast her gaze to Scootaloo, who lifted her head to stare back, her face now brimming with emotion while her jaw remained shut.

“I’m so sorry, Scootaloo,” Rainbow resumed, looking deeply into Scootaloo’s eyes. “I’m sorry for hurting you, I’m sorry for pushing you away, and I’m even sorry that it’s taken me three weeks to come to you like this now. But I can’t wait another day. If you would give me the chance, I’ll do anything to prove to you just how much I want to save our relationship—to prove to you that I no longer have the hold over you that you thought I had. Would you allow me that chance?”

In an instant, the laughter and joy of the fillies no longer made a sound as the world around Rainbow Dash slipped into slow motion. Her eyes remained locked deeply into Scootaloo’s as the remainder of her body went stiff, awaiting the answer that would finally determine whether or not this leap of faith had been worth the effort....

“I think you have waited long enough for an answer,” Scootaloo replied, her face heavy with doubt. “And the truth is that I really don’t think I want our relationship to be over. I miss you. I miss having fun with you, I miss being as close to you as Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle are with their own sisters. And I miss having you as the pony I can look up to. But even if I decided to forgive you right now, do you really think we could just go right back to the way we were before? That’s the real question I’ve been struggling with, and I don’t have an answer for it.”

Scootaloo’s words offered Rainbow little more than a hollow victory, devoid of any actual accomplishment.

“No,” she said as her ears flopped. “I don’t think we can just go right back to it. It would take time, maybe even a lot of time. But I do think that we can get there again someday.”

The doubt weighing down Scootaloo’s face was cast aside by a smile, displaying her faith in Rainbow’s answer.

“I really hope we can.”

A confident smile spread across Rainbow’s face faster than she could possibly stop it, and she felt the sensation that she had just returned home from a very long trip. For the very first time since that moment when she had thought that the mail pony was delivering her Wonderbolt uniform nearly a month ago, Rainbow Dash felt that she had finally reclaimed her life again.


The weather over the next few weeks was almost entirely sunny, as Rainbow Dash refused to allow any rain to fall in Ponyville before the arrival of the Equestria Games, mostly as a reflection of her significantly improved mood.

As the days gradually passed, Rainbow’s life continued to fall back into place as the lingering fragments were picked up. She had since learned from the doctors that her father’s death had been caused by a lone parasite that happened to infect his digestive tract until it made its way towards his heart, and she could not stop herself from crying as she shared the news with him, at last feeling absolved of any and all guilt for his death. She had finally managed to find the willpower to scan through the box of her mother’s pictures, and her heartstrings pulled nearly to their breaking point as she savored each and every one. Eventually, she came across one that she loved too much to store it back into the box—a photo of her parents happily dancing together in the rain. It now sat within frame on her bedside table, filling her with a silent joy each time her eyes fell upon it.

Wind Lily could barely contain her enthusiasm about the Games, and was even excited just by the prospect visiting the Crystal Empire for the very first time. Rainbow Dash was thrilled that she would be attending, feeling that her presence would easily be enough to make up for the absence of her parents.

And today, the day just before all of Equestria would witness her racing against the Wonderbolts, Rainbow found herself returning to her favorite field alongside Scootaloo, their relationship still gradually weathering through the long process of repair as Rainbow was determined to be a better sister than she ever was before.

“Are you sure you shouldn’t be training for tomorrow?” Scootaloo asked her as they arrived in the field. “Besides, I think Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle wanted us to go over our own routine again.”

“Forget the Games,” Rainbow replied nonchalantly. “You’ve run that routine like a million times already, and it’s not like doing any last-minute training now is going to make me any faster than I already am.”

Scootaloo chuckled. “It sure been a long time since we’ve done this, hasn’t it?”

“It was a lifetime ago, Scoot,” Rainbow replied with a nod.

They took a moment to reflect as the memories of their last game of catch came rushing back to both of them---the day Rainbow had excitedly told Scootaloo about how she would soon be wearing a Wonderbolt uniform for the first time, and the day she had received news that would go on to change her life forevermore…

A "lifetime ago" was putting it quite accurately...

“Go long, Scoot,” Rainbow said with a grin, and the young filly turned on the spot and dashed several meters away from her older sister, just before she punted the ball through the clear, blue sky….

Their game lasted for hours, and somewhere high above the atmosphere, two ponies smiled contentedly as they looked down upon their daughter with pride, eager to watch her performance in the Equestria Games, and unable to wait until she was telling them all about it.

The End